Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics

, Volume 81, Issue 1, pp 253–269 | Cite as

Listening back in time: Does attention to memory facilitate word-in-noise identification?

  • T. M. Vanessa Chan
  • Claude Alain


The ephemeral nature of spoken words creates a challenge for oral communications where incoming speech sounds must be processed in relation to representations of just-perceived sounds stored in short-term memory. This can be particularly taxing in noisy environments where perception of speech is often impaired or initially incorrect. Usage of prior contextual information (e.g., a semantically related word) has been shown to improve speech in noise identification. In three experiments, we demonstrate a comparable effect of a semantically related cue word placed after an energetically masked target word in improving accuracy of target-word identification. This effect persisted irrespective of cue modality (visual or auditory cue word) and, in the case of cues after the target, lasted even when the cue word was presented up to 4 seconds after the target. The results are framed in the context of an attention to memory model that seeks to explain the cognitive and neural mechanisms behind processing of items in auditory memory.


Auditory Attention Retro-cue Speech-in-noise Context 


Author note

T. M. Vanessa Chan, Department of Psychology, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, and Rotman Research Institute, Baycrest, Toronto, Ontario, Canada; Claude Alain, Rotman Research Institute, Baycrest, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, Department of Psychology, Institute of Medical Sciences and Faculty of Music, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

This research was supported by a National Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) grant awarded to C.A.


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Copyright information

© The Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada
  2. 2.Rotman Research Institute, Baycrest Health SciencesTorontoCanada

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