Date of Original Version




Abstract or Description

In recent years there has been a great deal of interest in demonstrations of the so-called "Perceptual-Magnet Effect" (PME). In these studies, AX-discrimination tasks purportedly reveal that discriminability of speech sounds from a single category varies with judged phonetic "goodness" of the sounds. However, one possible confound is that category membership is determined by identification of sounds in isolation, whereas, discrimination tasks include pairs of stimuli. In the first experiment of the current study, identifications and goodness judgments were obtained for vowels (/i/–/e/) presented in pairs. A substantial shift in phonetic identity was evidenced with changes in the context vowel. In a second experiment, listeners participated in an AX-discrimination task with the vowel pairs from the first experiment. Using the contextual identification functions from the first experiment, predictions of discriminability were calculated using the classic tenets of Categorical Perception. Obtained discriminability functions were well accounted for by predictions from identification. There was no additional unexplained variance that required the proposal of "perceptual magnets." These results suggest that PME may be nothing more than further demonstration that general discriminability is greater for cross-category stimulus pairs than for within-category pairs




Copyright 1998 Acoustical Society of America. This article may be downloaded for personal use only. Any other use requires prior permission of the author and the Acoustical Society of America. The following article appeared in Journal of the Acoustical Society of America Volume 103, Issue 6, pp. 3648-3655 and may be found at