Date of Award


Degree Type




First Advisor

McLennan, Conor

Subject Headings

Word recognition, Attention, Taboo, Linguistic, Speech perception, spoken word recognition attention taboo words speech perception


In the current experiment, I examined the effects of inter-talker variability and talkers' gender on listeners' perception of spoken taboo words. Previous spoken word recognition research using the long-term repetition-priming paradigm, in which listeners respond to two separate blocks of spoken words, found performance costs for stimuli mismatching in talker identity. That is, when words were repeated across the two blocks and the identity of the talker remained the same (e.g., male to male) reaction times (RTs) were faster relative to when the repeated words were spoken by two different talkers (e.g., male to female). Such performance costs, or talker effects, followed a time course, occurring only when processing was relatively slow. More recent research has found that explicit and implicit attention towards the talker led to talker effects (even during relatively fast processing). The purpose of the current study was to examine how word meaning could affect the pattern of talker effects. Participants completed an easy lexical decision task and participants' mean accuracy rates and RTs were analyzed. I hypothesized that hearing taboo words would surprise the listeners and grab their attention, such that talker effects are obtained even when processing is relatively fast. The results are consistent with the attention-based hypothesis that talker effects emerge when participants hear both spoken taboo and neutral words. However, talker effects emerged regardless of the talkers' gender. In addition, taboo words were responded to faster than neutral words, suggesting that spoken word recognition can be affected by word meaning. The results of the current study have important implications for theoretical models of spoken word recognition and how attention plays a role

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