Audiovisual perception of congruent and incongruent Dutch front vowels
Bea Valkenier, University of Groningen
Purpose: Auditory perception of vowels in background noise is enhanced when combined with visually perceived speech features. The objective of this study was to investigate whether the influence of visual cues on vowel perception extends to incongruent vowels, in a manner similar to the McGurk effect observed with consonants.
Method: Identification of Dutch front vowels /i,y,e,Y/ that share all features other than height and lip-rounding was measured for congruent and incongruent audiovisual conditions. The audio channel was systematically degraded by adding noise, increasing the reliance on visual cues.
Results: The height feature was more robustly carried over through the auditory channel and the lip-rounding feature through the visual channel. Hence, congruent audiovisual presentation enhanced identification, while incongruent presentation led to perceptual fusions and thus decreased identification.
Conclusions: Visual cues influence the identification of congruent as well as incongruent audiovisual vowels. Incongruent visual information results in perceptual fusions demonstrating that the McGurk effect can be instigated by long phonemes such as vowels. This result extends to the incongruent presentation of the visually less reliably perceived height. The findings stress the importance of audiovisual congruency in communication devices, such as cochlear implants and videoconferencing tools, where the auditory signal could be degraded.