Date of Original Version
Abstract or Description
Different patterns of performance across vowels and consonants in tests of categorization and discrimination indicate that vowels tend to be perceived more continuously, or less categorically, than consonants. The present experiments examined whether analogous differences in perception would arise in nonspeech sounds that share critical transient acoustic cues of consonants and steady-state spectral cues of simplified synthetic vowels. Listeners were trained to categorize novel nonspeech sounds varying along a continuum defined by a steady-state cue, a rapidly-changing cue, or both cues. Listeners’ categorization of stimuli varying on the rapidly changing cue showed a sharp category boundary and posttraining discrimination was well predicted from the assumption of categorical perception. Listeners more accurately discriminated but less accurately categorized steady-state nonspeech stimuli. When listeners categorized stimuli defined by both rapidly-changing and steady-state cues, discrimination performance was accurate and the categorization function exhibited a sharp boundary. These data are similar to those found in experiments with dynamic vowels, which are defined by both steady-state and rapidly-changing acoustic cues. A general account for the speech and nonspeech patterns is proposed based on the supposition that the perceptual trace of rapidly-changing sounds decays faster than the trace of steady-state sounds.