Mechanisms underlying speech sound discrimination and categorization in humans and zebra finches

M.A. Burgering, Carel ten Cate, J. Vroomen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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Abstract

Speech sound categorization in birds seems in many ways comparable to that by humans, but it is unclear what mechanisms underlie such categorization. To examine this, we trained zebra finches and humans to discriminate two pairs of edited speech sounds that varied either along one dimension (vowel or speaker sex) or along two dimensions (vowel and speaker sex). Sounds could be memorized individually or categorized based on one dimension or by integrating or combining both dimensions. Once training was completed, we tested generalization to new speech sounds that were either more extreme, more ambiguous (i.e., close to the category boundary), or within-category intermediate between the trained sounds. Both humans and zebra finches learned the one-dimensional stimulus-response mappings faster than the two-dimensional mappings. Humans performed higher on the trained, extreme and within-category intermediate test-sounds than on the ambiguous ones. Some individual birds also did so, but most performed higher on the trained exemplars than on the extreme, within-category intermediate and ambiguous test-sounds. These results suggest that humans rely on rule learning to form categories and show poor performance when they cannot apply a rule. Birds rely mostly on exemplar-based memory with weak evidence for rule learning.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)285-299
JournalAnimal Cognition
Volume21
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2018

Keywords

  • Categorization
  • Speech perception
  • Comparative cognition
  • Songbirds
  • Zebra finch
  • Human
  • COCHLEAR IMPLANT USERS
  • AUDITORY CATEGORIZATION
  • FUNDAMENTAL-FREQUENCY
  • GENDER CATEGORIZATION
  • PHONETIC CATEGORIES
  • VOICE GENDER
  • PERCEPTION
  • VOWELS
  • ACQUISITION
  • CLASSIFICATION

Cite this

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title = "Mechanisms underlying speech sound discrimination and categorization in humans and zebra finches",
abstract = "Speech sound categorization in birds seems in many ways comparable to that by humans, but it is unclear what mechanisms underlie such categorization. To examine this, we trained zebra finches and humans to discriminate two pairs of edited speech sounds that varied either along one dimension (vowel or speaker sex) or along two dimensions (vowel and speaker sex). Sounds could be memorized individually or categorized based on one dimension or by integrating or combining both dimensions. Once training was completed, we tested generalization to new speech sounds that were either more extreme, more ambiguous (i.e., close to the category boundary), or within-category intermediate between the trained sounds. Both humans and zebra finches learned the one-dimensional stimulus-response mappings faster than the two-dimensional mappings. Humans performed higher on the trained, extreme and within-category intermediate test-sounds than on the ambiguous ones. Some individual birds also did so, but most performed higher on the trained exemplars than on the extreme, within-category intermediate and ambiguous test-sounds. These results suggest that humans rely on rule learning to form categories and show poor performance when they cannot apply a rule. Birds rely mostly on exemplar-based memory with weak evidence for rule learning.",
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author = "M.A. Burgering and {ten Cate}, Carel and J. Vroomen",
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Mechanisms underlying speech sound discrimination and categorization in humans and zebra finches. / Burgering, M.A.; ten Cate, Carel; Vroomen, J.

In: Animal Cognition, Vol. 21, No. 2, 2018, p. 285-299.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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