Ignoring The Merry In Marry: Abstract

The effect of individual differences in attention and proficiency on non-native spoken-word recognition in noise

Successful speech recognition is a key factor for social integration and communication. At the same time, ever increasing numbers of people travel, live, or work in a non-native language environment, thus communicating in a non-native language. Listening in a non-native language is harder than in one’s native language, and even harder in the presence of noise, e.g., when trying to understand the information provided in airplanes. A common observation is that some people have more difficulty in such situations than others. These individual differences in the effect of noise on non-native spoken-word recognition might be modulated by individual differences in attention and proficiency of the non-native language. Surprisingly, this topic has received little attention in research. The aims of this project are (a) to understand exactly why non-native word recognition in noise is so much harder than in a native language, and (b) why some listeners cope better with non-native listening in noise than others.

This project, for the first time, systematically investigates the effect of noise on non-native spoken-word recognition using a range of tasks tapping into different processes underlying spoken-word recognition, more specifically the word selection process and the multiple activation and competition process, and the effect of individual differences in attention and proficiency on non-native spoken-word recognition in noise. The belief that attention plays a major role in spoken-word recognition is wide-spread, however surprisingly little investigated. Finally, the impact of non-native listening in noise on the employment of processing resources is investigated through a combination of behavioural experiments and computational modelling.

This project aims to develop a new theory of spoken-word recognition that accounts for individual differences in non-native spoken-word recognition in noise and the interaction between language processing and cognition (i.e., attention, proficiency), a link generally acknowledged but rarely implemented in spoken-word recognition theories.

Keywords: non-native spoken-word recognition, listening in noise, attention, proficiency, individual differences