Jacobsen, T., & Schröger, E. (2004). Input to verbal working memory: Preattentive construction of the central speech representation. Experimental Psychology, 51(4), 231-239.

Input to verbal working memory: Preattentive construction of the central speech representation

Working memory uses central sound representations as an informational basis. The central sound representation is the temporally and feature-integrated mental representation that corresponds to phenomenal perception. It is used in (higher-order) mental operations and stored in long-term memory. In the bottom-up processing path, the central sound representation can be probed at the level of auditory sensory memory with the mismatch negativity (MMN) of the event-related potential. The present paper reviews a newly developed MMN paradigm to tap into the processing of speech sound representations. Preattentive vowel categorization based on F1-F2 formant information occurs in speech sounds and complex tones even under conditions of high variability of the auditory input. However, an additional experiment demonstrated the limits of the preattentive categorization of language-relevant information. It tested whether the system categorizes complex tones containing the F1 and F2 formant components of the vowel /a/ differently than six sounds with nonlanguage-like F1-F2 combinations. From the absence of an MMN in this experiment, it is concluded that no adequate vowel representation was constructed. This shows limitations of the capability of preattentive vowel categorization.


Cognitive and Biological Psychology

University of Leipzig
Faculty of Life Sciences
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Dagmar Schrödl
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