Pre-attentive categorization of vowel formant structure in synthesized vowels and complex tones

Jacobsen, T.
Institut für Allgemeine Psychologie, University of Leipzig, Germany

The present study tested whether even complex tones that were constructed based on F0, F1 and F2 vowel frequencies to resemble the defining features of speech sounds, but were not speech, are categorized pre-attentively according to vowel space information. The Mismatch Negativity brain response was elicited by infrequent tokens of the complex tones, showing that the auditory system can pre-attentively categorize speech information on the basis of the minimal, defining auditory features. The human mind extracts the language-relevant information from complex tones despite the non-relevant variation in the sound input.