Examining the Relationship Between Speech Perception, Production Distinctness, and Production Variability

Hung Shao Cheng, Caroline A. Niziolek, Adam Buchwald, Tara McAllister

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Several studies have demonstrated that individuals’ ability to perceive a speech sound contrast is related to the production of that contrast in their native language. The theoretical account for this relationship is that speech perception and production have a shared multimodal representation in relevant sensory spaces (e.g., auditory and somatosensory domains). This gives rise to a prediction that individuals with more narrowly defined targets will produce greater separation between contrasting sounds, as well as lower variability in the production of each sound. However, empirical studies that tested this hypothesis, particularly with regard to variability, have reported mixed outcomes. The current study investigates the relationship between perceptual ability and production ability, focusing on the auditory domain. We examined whether individuals’ categorical labeling consistency for the American English /ε/–/æ/ contrast, measured using a perceptual identification task, is related to distance between the centroids of vowel categories in acoustic space (i.e., vowel contrast distance) and to two measures of production variability: the overall distribution of repeated tokens for the vowels (i.e., area of the ellipse) and the proportional within-trial decrease in variability as defined as the magnitude of self-correction to the initial acoustic variation of each token (i.e., centering ratio). No significant associations were found between categorical labeling consistency and vowel contrast distance, between categorical labeling consistency and area of the ellipse, or between categorical labeling consistency and centering ratio. These null results suggest that the perception-production relation may not be as robust as suggested by a widely adopted theoretical framing in terms of the size of auditory target regions. However, the present results may also be attributable to choices in implementation (e.g., the use of model talkers instead of continua derived from the participants’ own productions) that should be subject to further investigation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number660948
JournalFrontiers in Human Neuroscience
StatePublished - May 28 2021


  • individual differences
  • production variability
  • speech motor control
  • speech perception
  • speech production

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Neurology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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