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Attention and perceptual regularity in speech

Schmidt-Kassow, Maren; Kotz, Sonja A.

doi: 10.1097/WNR.0b013e328333b0c6

Perceptual regularities have been investigated intensely in music research but to a lesser extent in speech research possibly because of its irregular nature. People tend to rhythmize almost every given acoustic input though, even if one stimulus is physically identical to the next. Hence, perception of regularities seems to be highly subjective, and may not solely be driven by acoustic cues. Using event-related potentials, we show that participants perceive regularities in speech and register even subtle deviations in trochaic speech patterns (‘Gina ‘hätte ‘Norbert ‘gestern ‘abend ‘küssen/*be’lohnen ‘sollen; Gina should have kissed/rewarded Norbert yesterday evening). This is evidenced in a P600 response that varies as a function of task. Our results provide evidence for attention-dependent perceptual regularity in speech.

Independent Research Group Neurocognition of Rhythm in Communication, Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Leipzig, Germany

Correspondence to Dr Maren Schmidt-Kassow, Max-Planck-Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Science, Stephanstrasse 1a, Leipzig 04103, Germany

Tel: +49 341 9940 120; fax: +49 341 9940 260; e-mail:

Received 2 September 2009 accepted 30 September 2009

© 2009 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.