Current grant

Behavioral and neurophysiological investigations of individual variation in cue weighting strategies

(National Science Foundation #1827409)

The perception of speech sounds often requires listeners to pay attention to multiple cues at once. The weighting of the relative importance of cues can nonetheless vary across individuals. Little is known regarding the sources of such variation, however. This project will investigate potential mechanisms underpinning such variability. The project will broaden the empirical database on which theories of speech perception and production are grounded as well as providing insights into first/second language acquisition and pedagogy in terms of the development of personalized training for individual language learners. The project will also introduce young women and under-represented minorities to STEM fields via the study of the language sciences through planned outreach programs. The findings from this project may inform clinical research on developmental or acquired perceptual and language impairments, and may also serve to inform research on speech related technologies.

This project focuses on two potential explanations for individual variability in cue weighting. Listeners might differ in early auditory encoding, which affects the reliability, hence weighting, of certain cues that support phonological contrasts. Listeners might also differ in cue integration strategy such that some utilize a continuous cue integration strategy whereby cue information is integrated as they become available, while others might employ a buffer strategy so that phonemic identification is postponed until all necessary information becomes available. This project will investigate individual variability in cue weighting using brainstem and cortical responses to speech sounds within the same individual, thus providing a comprehensive neurophysiological profile that underlies individual patterns of real-time cue weighting process, as measured with eye-movements.