The Nature of Phoneme Representation in Spoken Word Recognition

M. Gareth Gaskell, Philip T. Quinlan, Jakke Tamminen, Alexandra A. Cleland

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Four experiments used the psychological refractory period logic to examine whether integration of multiple sources of phonemic information has a decisional locus. All experiments made use of a dual-task paradigm in which participants made forced-choice color categorization (Task 1) and phoneme categorization (Task 2) decisions at varying stimulus onset asynchronies. In Experiment 1, Task 2 difficulty was manipulated using words containing matching or mismatching coarticulatory cues to the final consonant. The results showed that difficulty and onset asynchrony combined in an underadditive way, suggesting that the phonemic mismatch was resolved prior to a central decisional bottleneck. Similar results were found in Experiment 2 using nonwords. In Experiment 3, the manipulation of task difficulty involved lexical status, which once again revealed an underadditive pattern of response times. Finally, Experiment 4 compared this prebottleneck variable with a decisional variable: response key bias. The latter showed an additive pattern of responses. The experiments show that resolution of phonemic ambiguity can take advantage of cognitive slack time at short asynchronies, indicating that phonemic integration takes place at a relatively early stage of spoken word recognition. © 2008 American Psychological Association.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)282-302
    Number of pages20
    JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: General
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - May 2008


    • lexical access
    • phoneme
    • psychological refractory period
    • spoken word recognition
    • subcategorical mismatch


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