The Effects of Semantic Context and the Type and Amount of Acoustic Distortion on Lexical Decision by Younger and Older Adults PurposeIn this study, the authors investigated how acoustic distortion affected younger and older adults' use of context in a lexical decision task.MethodThe authors measured lexical decision reaction times (RTs) when intact target words followed acoustically distorted sentence contexts. Contexts were semantically congruent, neutral, or incongruent. Younger adults (n = 216) ... Research Article
Research Article  |   December 01, 2013
The Effects of Semantic Context and the Type and Amount of Acoustic Distortion on Lexical Decision by Younger and Older Adults
 
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Huiwen Goy
    University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  • Marianne Pelletier
    University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  • Marco Coletta
    University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  • M. Kathleen Pichora-Fuller
    University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  • Disclosure:The authors have declared that no competing interests existed at the time of publication.
    Disclosure:The authors have declared that no competing interests existed at the time of publication.×
  • Correspondence to M. Kathleen Pichora-Fuller: k.pichora.fuller@utoronto.ca
  • Editor: Craig Champlin
    Editor: Craig Champlin×
  • Associate Editor: Eric Healy
    Associate Editor: Eric Healy×
Article Information
Hearing & Speech Perception / Acoustics / Special Populations / Older Adults & Aging / Normal Language Processing / Research Article
Research Article   |   December 01, 2013
The Effects of Semantic Context and the Type and Amount of Acoustic Distortion on Lexical Decision by Younger and Older Adults
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, December 2013, Vol. 56, 1715-1732. doi:10.1044/1092-4388(2013/12-0053)
History: Received February 9, 2012 , Revised August 18, 2012 , Accepted March 9, 2013
 
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, December 2013, Vol. 56, 1715-1732. doi:10.1044/1092-4388(2013/12-0053)
History: Received February 9, 2012; Revised August 18, 2012; Accepted March 9, 2013
Web of Science® Times Cited: 6

PurposeIn this study, the authors investigated how acoustic distortion affected younger and older adults' use of context in a lexical decision task.

MethodThe authors measured lexical decision reaction times (RTs) when intact target words followed acoustically distorted sentence contexts. Contexts were semantically congruent, neutral, or incongruent. Younger adults (n = 216) were tested on three distortion types: low-pass filtering, time compression, and masking by multitalker babble, using two amounts of distortion selected to control for word recognition accuracy. Older adults (n = 108) were tested on two amounts of time compression and one low-pass filtering condition.

ResultsFor both age groups, there was robust facilitation by congruent contexts but minimal inhibition by incongruent contexts. Facilitation decreased as distortion increased. Older listeners had slower RTs than younger listeners, but this difference was smaller in congruent than in neutral or incongruent conditions. After controlling for word recognition accuracy, older listeners' RTs were slower in time-compressed than in low-pass filtering conditions, but younger listeners performed similarly in both conditions.

ConclusionsThese RT results highlight the interdependence between bottom-up sensory and top-down semantic processing. Consistent with previous findings based on accuracy measures, compared with younger adults, older adults were disproportionately slowed when speech was time compressed but more facilitated by congruent contexts.

Acknowledgments
This project was supported by a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) Research Grant RGPIN 138472, awarded to M. Kathleen Pichora-Fuller; by a Canada Graduate Master's Scholarship from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, awarded to Marianne Pelletier; and by a Connaught Scholarship and NSERC Postgraduate Scholarship, awarded to Huiwen Goy. Portions of this work were presented at the 2008 technical sessions of the Canadian Acoustical Association in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, and at the 2010 Psycholinguistic Approaches to Speech Recognition in Adverse Conditions Workshop in Bristol, England. We thank Jennifer Aydelott for supplying the stimuli used in her original study and for suggesting a recalculation method for the reaction time data. We also thank Lulu Li and Renée Giroux for their assistance in participant recruitment and data collection, and James Qi for technical support. We are especially grateful to Craig Chambers for helpful comments on an earlier draft of this article.
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