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Speech versus non-speech as irrelevant sound: Controlling acoustic variation

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-17, 04:16 authored by Little, J, Martin, F, Thomson, RH
Functional differences between speech and non-speech within the irrelevant sound effect were investigated using repeated and changing formats of irrelevant sounds in the form of intelligible words and unintelligible signal correlated noise (SCN) versions of the words. Event-related potentials were recorded from 25 females aged between 18 and 25 while they completed a serial order recall task in the presence of irrelevant sound or silence. As expected and in line with the changing-state hypothesis both words and SCN produced robust changing-state effects. However, words produced a greater changing-state effect than SCN indicating that the spectral detail inherent within speech accounts for the greater irrelevant sound effect and changing-state effect typically observed with speech. ERP data in the form of N1 amplitude was modulated within some irrelevant sound conditions suggesting that attentional aspects are involved in the elicitation of the irrelevant sound effect.


Publication title

Biological Psychology








School of Psychological Sciences


Elsevier Science Bv

Place of publication

Po Box 211, Amsterdam, Netherlands, 1000 Ae

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The definitive version is available at

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  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Expanding knowledge in psychology

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