Do people selectively interpret their schwa vs. syllabic consonant perception on the basis of their background, experience and expectations?


  • Inmaculada de Jesús Arboleda Guirao Universidad de Murcia



Selective perception, Cognitive bias, English syllabic consonants, Schwa, Perceptual-acoustic analysis


This paper reports a study which intends to find out whether the claim made by Vandeveer, Menefee and Sinclair (2006:7) that “people selectively interpret what they see on the basis of their [...] background, experience, [...] and expectations” (a cognitive bias known as selective perception) applies to the English syllabic consonant vs. schwa perception and, if so, to what extent. The data in Arboleda (2010) were subjected to further statistical analyses and there was also the acoustic analysis of a sample of speech sounds as well as the answers from three referees to a post-task questionnaire. Our results match Vandeveer et al. (2006) in that the listeners’ background, experience (especially, their accent and phonetic experience, respectively) and expectations are related to the perception of this alternation, especially when it is difficult to discern between a syllabic vs. non-syllabic consonant production. A wider sample of referees with different sociolinguistic backgrounds would be useful in order to reach a more consistent conclusion


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