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Cognitive predictors of perceptual adaptation to accented
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The present study investigated the effects of inhibition, vocabulary knowledge, and
working memory on perceptual adaptation to accented speech. One hundred young,
normal-hearing adults listened to sentences spoken in a constructed, unfamiliar accent
presented in speech-shaped background noise. Speech Reception Thresholds (SRTs) corresponding to 50%
recognition accuracy provided a measurement of adaptation to the
accented speech. Stroop, vocabulary knowledge, and working memory tests were performed to
measure cognitive ability. Participants adapted to the unfamiliar accent as revealed by a
decrease in SRTs over time. Better inhibition (lower Stroop scores) predicted greater and
faster adaptation to the unfamiliar accent. Vocabulary knowledge predicted better
recognition of the unfamiliar accent, while working memory had a smaller, indirect effect
recognition mediated by vocabulary score. Results support a top-down
successful adaptation to, and recognition of, accented speech; they add to recent theories
that allocate a prominent role for executive function to effective speech comprehension in
adverse listening conditions.
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