Academic journal article Attention, Perception and Psychophysics

Is Speech Alignment to Talkers or Tasks?

Academic journal article Attention, Perception and Psychophysics

Is Speech Alignment to Talkers or Tasks?

Article excerpt

Published online: 2 August 2013

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2013

Abstract Speech alignment, or the tendency of individuals to subtly imitate each other's speaking styles, is often assessed by comparing a subject's baseline and shadowed utterances to a model's utterances, often through perceptual ratings. These types of comparisons provide information about the occurrence of a change in subject's speech, but they do not indicate that this change is toward the specific shadowed model. In three experiments, we investigated whether alignment is specific to a shadowed model. Experiment 1 involved the classic baseline-to-shadowed comparison, to confirm that subjects did, in fact, sound more like their model when they shadowed, relative to any preexisting similarities between a subject and a model. Experiment 2 tested whether subjects' utterances sounded more similar to the model whom they had shadowed or to another, unshadowed model. In Experiment 3, we examined whether subjects' utterances sounded more similar to themodel whom they had shadowed or to another subject who had shadowed a different model. The results of all experiments revealed that subjects sounded more similar to the model whom they had shadowed. This suggests that shadowing-based speech alignment is not just a change, but a change in the direction of the shadowed model, specifically.

Keywords Speech perception . Speech production . Priming . Speech alignment . Speech convergence


Speech alignment describes the tendency of talkers to subtly imitate the speaking style of the person to whom they are talking (Dias & Rosenblum, 2011; Goldinger, 1998; Goldinger &Azuma, 2004; Miller, Sanchez, & Rosenblum, 2010; Namy, Nygaard, & Sauerteig, 2002; Nielsen, 2011; Pardo, 2006; Sanchez, 2011; Sanchez, Miller, & Rosenblum, 2010; Shockley, Sabadini, & Fowler, 2004). The phenomenon has been demonstrated in different empirical contexts, including interactive talker tasks, as well as in word-shadowing tasks. Furthermore, it has been demonstrated not only when spoken words are presented auditorily, but when they are presented visually-in a lip-reading task (Gentilucci & Bernardis, 2007; Miller et al., 2010; Sanchez, 2011; Sanchez et al., 2010).

Generally, researchers have concluded that subjects will produce speech that has become more like that of the talker (model) with whom they have interacted, or whom they have shadowed. This conclusion is often based on comparisons between pretask (or baseline) speech, often produced by subjects as they read words prior to the critical alignment task, and posttask speech that is produced during or after the alignment task (but see Gregory, Dagan, & Webster, 1997; Gregory, Green, Carrothers, Dagan, & Webster, 2001; Levitan & Hirschberg, 2011). Alignment is said to occur when the words uttered during the interaction or shadowing task are judged, or measured, as being more similar to those of the model than are the baseline words spoken by the subject during the prealignment task.

However, because they have been based on comparisons between a subject's own utterances, the alignment findings that have used baseline comparisons cannot definitively show that subjects sound more like the specific model with whom they interacted, or whom they shadowed. The present experiments were designed to examine this possibility by using an AXB rating task.

Speech alignment paradigms

It has long been reported that talkers subtly change their speech patterns to be more like the person with whom they are talking. Although social and situational factors can influence its prominence (e.g., Giles, Coupland, & Coupland, 1991; Gregory & Webster, 1996; Pardo, Cajori Jay & Krauss, 2010), interlocutors have been shown to partially match each other's speech rates, accents, frequency/amplitude contours, and vocal intensity (e.g., Giles et al., 1991; Gregory, 1990; Harrington, Palethorpe, &Watson, 2000; Natale, 1975; Sancier & Fowler, 1997). …

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