Bhandari, Pratik; Demberg, Vera; Kray, Jutta

Predictability effects in degraded speech comprehension are reduced as a function of attention

Language and Cognition, Cambridge University Press, pp. 1-18, 2022.

The aim of this study was to examine the role of attention in understanding linguistic information even in a noisy environment. To assess the role of attention, we varied task instructions in two experiments in which participants were instructed to listen to short sentences and thereafter to type in the last word they heard or to type in the whole sentence. We were interested in how these task instructions influence the interplay between top-down prediction and bottom-up perceptual processes during language comprehension. Therefore, we created sentences that varied in the degree of predictability (low, medium, and high) as well as in the degree of speech degradation (four, six, and eight noise-vocoding channels). Results indicated better word recognition for highly predictable sentences for moderate, though not for high, levels of speech degradation, but only when attention was directed to the whole sentence. This underlines the important role of attention in language comprehension.