Unattended exposure to components of speech sounds yields same benefits as explicit auditory training

Aaron R. Seitz, Athanassios Protopapas, Yoshiaki Tsushima, Eleni L. Vlahou, Simone Gori, Stephen Grossberg, Takeo Watanabe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Learning a second language as an adult is particularly effortful when new phonetic representations must be formed. Therefore the processes that allow learning of speech sounds are of great theoretical and practical interest. Here we examined whether perception of single formant transitions, that is, sound components critical in speech perception, can be enhanced through an implicit task-irrelevant learning procedure that has been shown to produce visual perceptual learning. The single-formant sounds were paired at subthreshold levels with the attended targets in an auditory identification task. Results showed that task-irrelevant learning occurred for the unattended stimuli. Surprisingly, the magnitude of this learning effect was similar to that following explicit training on auditory formant transition detection using discriminable stimuli in an adaptive procedure, whereas explicit training on the subthreshold stimuli produced no learning. These results suggest that in adults learning of speech parts can occur at least partially through implicit mechanisms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)435-443
Number of pages9
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2010


  • Audition
  • Formants
  • Implicit learning
  • Perceptual learning
  • Speech

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Linguistics and Language
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology


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