Project Update: We have data!

Since my last post, we have recruited four participants for the study. We had collected data from about three pilots before hand and had a good enough corpus of data to submit an abstract for a conference!

Here is our abstract:

The purpose of this study is to examine speech processing in the auditory context of competing background noise to elucidate how bilingual experience modulates speech discrimination of English contrasts that are not phonemic in Spanish. We measured the Mismatch Negativity (MMN) component of event related potentials (ERPs). MMN reflects discrimination of auditory or speech contrasts (Näätänen, et al., 2007). We hypothesized that bilinguals would be less automatic in neural discrimination of speech contrasts because English, but not Spanish distinguishes the target vowels /ɑ/  and /æ/ . Thus, attention to and away from the speech is expected to more strongly modulate discrimination for bilinguals. ERPs to speech stimuli were recorded from 64 scalp sites in two conditions. In condition 1, participants’ attention was directed away (by watching a muted video) from the speech, which consisted of a female voice uttering /ɑpə/ as standard and /æpə/ as deviant mixed with a male voice uttering /epə/ as standard and /apə/ as deviant. In condition 2, participants were required to focus on the female voice /æpə/ by counting the deviants and to ignore the male voice. Preliminary results with four bilinguals revealed that attention enhanced the MMN amplitude to the target /æ/, but not to the non-target /e/ for the male voice in bilingual participants. In contrast, monolingual participants showed little or no increase in MMN to the target vowel,  increased amplitude of a late negativity to the target, but also positivity to the non-target male voice /e/. These findings suggest that bilingual experience influences processing of both target and non-target speech information. The pattern may be explained in terms of differences in how bilinguals and monolinguals inhibit interfering speech. Future directions will relate these findings to behavioral indices of target perception and to age and proficiency of second language acquisition.”

I am currently working on recruiting more participants and adding a new condition that has two female voices as the stimulus. In theory, It will be more difficult to differentiate the target stimulus from the non-target stimulus if they are both coming from female voices.  I am planning on submitting a new abstract later this month for the Cornell Linguistics Colloquium with data from the new paradigm. I would encourage anyone reading this to prepare an abstract for this colloquium even if you haven’t collected much data just so you can practice writing an abstract for a presentation and hopefully present at this event! I went last year and it was such an intimate event, the UnderLings (Cornell’s undergraduate linguistics club) approached everyone and tried to get to know them.


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