Individual differences in the discrimination of novel speech sounds: effects of sex, temporal processing, musical and cognitive abilities

Vera Kempe, John C. Thoresen, Neil W. Kirk, Felix Schaeffler, Patricia J. Brooks

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Abstract

This study examined whether rapid temporal auditory processing, verbal working memory capacity, non-verbal intelligence, executive functioning, musical ability and prior foreign language experience predicted how well native English speakers (N = 120) discriminated Norwegian tonal and vowel contrasts as well as a non-speech analogue of the tonal contrast and a native vowel contrast presented over noise. Results confirmed a male advantage for temporal and tonal processing, and also revealed that temporal processing was associated with both non-verbal intelligence and speech processing. In contrast, effects of musical ability on non-native speech-sound processing and of inhibitory control on vowel discrimination were not mediated by temporal processing. These results suggest that individual differences in non-native speech-sound processing are to some extent determined by temporal auditory processing ability, in which males perform better, but are also determined by a host of other abilities that are deployed flexibly depending on the characteristics of the target sounds.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere48623
Number of pages11
JournalPLoS One
Volume7
Issue number11
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2012

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