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Michigan State UniversityCognitive Science Program

Real-time spoken word recognition: A data explanation approach.

Dr. Michael Tanenhaus, University of Rochester

Monday, October 27th at 5:30 p.m., 118 Psychology

Watch the talk here!

About Dr. Tanenhaus

Michael Tanenhaus is a Professor in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences and the Department of Linguistics at the University of Rochester in New York. He is also the director of the Center for Language Sciences.


For most of the last two decades two classes of “pattern-recognition” models have dominated the spoken word recognition literature: (1) pattern recognition models with abstract representations, and (2) exemplar-based pattern recognition models. I will argue for another class of model: “data explanation” models that evaluate hypotheses about the state of the world according to how well those hypotheses predict the observed properties of the perceptual input. I will outline an explanation-based framework in which prediction and learning play a central role and present supporting evidence from four lines of work. The first shows that listeners use information from the first few pitch periods in a preceding vowel to generate lexical hypotheses (e.g., the shwa in “the” in “the lamp…”). The second demonstrates that the information structure of an utterance affects whether or not increased syllable duration is interpreted as evidence for a prosodic boundary in an onset embedded word (“hamster”). This result is unexpected given traditional approaches to spoken word recognition. The third line of work shows that listeners maintain gradient representations of VOT and combine that information rationally with right context. The fourth line of work shows that changes in speech rate affect whether people hear the same acoustic input as “…a yellow duck swimming” or “…yellow ducks swimming”, and then uses appearing and disappearing indefinites as a domain for exploring real-time adaptation and cue integration within a belief-updating framework.

Suggested Readings

Farmer, T. A., Brown, M. & Tanenhaus, M. K. (2013). Prediction, explanation, and the role of generative models in language processing. Behavior and Brain Sciences, 36, 211-212.[.pdf]

Meredith Brown, Anne Pier Salverda, Christine Gunlogson & Michael K. Tanenhaus. (2013): Interpreting prosodic cues in discourse context. Language, Cognition and Neuroscience, DOI: 10.1080/01690965.2013.862285[.pdf]

Anne Pier Salverda, Dave Kleinschmidt & Michael K. Tanenhaus. (2013): Immediate effects of anticipatory coarticulation in spoken-word recognition. Journal of Memory and Language, 71, 145-163.[.pdf]

Dr. Tanenhaus will also be holding a brown bag discussion

Title: Dynamic updating of perceptual representations in situated language

The discussion with be at 12:00 in Psychology 230. You can find out more about the event and access supplementary readings here.

MSU CogSci in the News and Announcements

ATTENTION: Because of the move to remote format for MSU classes and events during the Fall 2020 semester, cognitive science events will take place online until further notice. Please see specific event pages for more details on remote attending.

Due to the novel coronavirus, all cognitive science events will be cancelled or postponed until further notice. We will release more information on new dates for postponed events as they are rescheduled. For official updates and information on MSU's response to the coronavirus, visit

Graduate student Stella (Cheng) Qian , member of the Brascamp lab for Visual Neuroscience, is the recipient of an Elsevier/Vision Research Travel Award for the 2019 Meeting of the Vision Sciences Society. [link]

Prof. Aline Godfroid was the recipient of the 2019 TESOL Award for Distinguished Research. The award was granted by the TESOL organization for her study "Incidental vocabulary learning in a natural reading context: An eye-tracking study", which was published in Bilingualism: Language and Cognition. The article was selected by the organization as the best TESOL-related, empirical research article appearing in 2018. [link]

Graduate student Kaylin Smith, member of the Phonetics and Phonology group at MSU, is the recipient of an International Phonetic Association Student Award for the 2019 International Congress of Phonetic Sciences, which takes place August 5-9th in Melbourne, Australia.

Prof. Jan Brascamp , as instructor of the Cognitive Psychology honors course, had an exhibition titled The Art of Psychology of Perception on display at the MSU Broad Art Lab. This was a collaboration between the Psychology department and the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum at Michigan State University. The exhibition was active from December 15th, 2018 until April 7, 2019. Rather than educating psychology students from utilizing a traditional art history overview, the students assessed the works on display using their own disciplinary background and perspective. [link]

Prof. Arun Ross was one of four panelists in a BBC Newshour Extra program titled Facing the Future, moderated by journalist Owen Bennet Jones. The panel discussed advancements made from automated face recognition and also personal privacy and biometrics. [link]

Prof. William Hartmann was awarded the 2017 Acoustical Society of America (ASA) Gold Medal for his contributions to the field of acoustics. His research has dealt with the perceptual analysis of sounds from varying sources, processing pitch, how humans localize sounds in space, and more. [link]

Profs. Devin McAuley and Natalie Phillips received an NSF Grant, The Role of Narrative in Music Perception, to study the factors which shape narrative listening to music and the relationship between narrative listening and other aspects of musical perception. [link]

Prof. Arun Ross and his colleague from NYU have had their research on the security of mobile fingerprint scanning featured in The New York Times, MSU Today, Popular Science, Homeland Security News Wire, and Science 360 News.

Professors Arun Ross, Xiaoming Liu, and Anil Jain received a 4-year grant from IARPA to conduct research on Presentation Attack Detection for fingerprint, face and iris biometric systems. [link]

CSE student Thomas Swearingen and his adviser Prof. Arun Ross won the runner up award for best paper at ISBA 2017. [link]

Research on laptop use and classroom learning by Prof. Susan Ravizza, Mitchell Uitvlugt, and Prof. Kim Fenn was featured in US News, BYU Radio, The Conversation, and numerous higher education journals [1, 2, 3, 4].

Prof. Cristina Schmitt received an NSF Grant, Effects of Variation and Variability in the Acquisition of Two Dialects of Spanish, to study first language acquisition of Spanish in the context of variability caused by contact between two very different varieties of Spanish: Paraguayan Spanish, which is heavily influenced by Guaraní (an indigenous language), and Rioplatense Spanish (spoken in Buenos Aires). [link]

Prof. Aline Godfroid received a Language Learning Early Career Research Grant for her validation project on "Measuring implicit and explicit L2 knowledge: Synthesizing 12 years of research."

Prof. Mark Becker has published five papers so far this year in Perception,Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance,Packaging Technology and Science,Visual Cognition, and Applied Ergonomics.

Sunpreet Arora and Anil Jain were part of a team that won Best Paper at BioSig 2016 for their paper titled "3D Whole Hand Targets: Evaluating Slap and Contactless Fingerprint Readers".

Dr. Anil Jain was part of a team that won Best Poster at BioSig 2016 for a poster titled "Advances in Capturing Child Fingerprints: A High Resolution CMOS Image Sensor with SLDR Method".

Dr. Anil Jain and Dr. Arun Ross were awarded a three-year NSF grant under the Secure & Trustworthy Cyberspace (SaTC) program for their proposal entitled "Imparting Privacy to Biometric Data in Cyberspace".

Dr. Arun Ross (with Dr. Nasir Memon, NYU) was awarded a three-year NSF grant for their project entitled "The Master Print: Investigating and Addressing Vulnerabilities in Fingerprint-based Authentication Systems".

Science writer Carl Sherman's story on stuttering for the Dana Foundation website, titled Seeking Clues to Stuttering Deep Within the Brain, featured research by Prof. Devin McAuley.

Summer 2016
Dr. Mark Becker was invited by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine and the National Institute of Standards and Technology to present his work investigating individual differences in cognition and personality that predict rare target detection at their Workshop on Developing Personnel Selection Tools for Forensic Scientists.

Summer 2016
Prof. Mark Reimers and colleague Bruce McNaughton received an NSF grant to study the dynamics of hippocampal-cortical communication during memory formation and recall.

Summer 2016
Prof. Susan Ravizza became a senior editor for the journal Brain Research.

Summer 2016
Prof. Mark Reimers received a Templeton Foundation grant to study the molecular coherence of genetic variants related to behavioral traits, including IQ.

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