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Temporal order perception of auditory stimuli is selectively modified by tonal and non-tonal language environments



Temporal order perception of auditory stimuli is selectively modified by tonal and non-tonal language environments



Cognition 129(3): 579-585



The close relationship between temporal perception and speech processing is well established. The present study focused on the specific question whether the speech environment could influence temporal order perception in subjects whose language backgrounds are distinctively different, i.e., Chinese (tonal language) vs. Polish (non-tonal language). Temporal order thresholds were measured for both monaurally presented clicks and binaurally presented tone pairs. Whereas the click experiment showed similar order thresholds for the two language groups, the experiment with tone pairs resulted in different observations: while Chinese demonstrated better performance in discriminating the temporal order of two "close frequency" tone pairs (600 Hz and 1200 Hz), Polish subjects showed a reversed pattern, i.e., better performance for "distant frequency" tone pairs (400 Hz and 3000 Hz). These results indicate on the one hand a common temporal mechanism for perceiving the order of two monaurally presented stimuli, and on the other hand neuronal plasticity for perceiving the order of frequency-related auditory stimuli. We conclude that the auditory brain is modified with respect to temporal processing by long-term exposure to a tonal or a non-tonal language. As a consequence of such an exposure different cognitive modes of operation (analytic vs. holistic) are selected: the analytic mode is adopted for "distant frequency" tone pairs in Chinese and for "close frequency" tone pairs in Polish subjects, whereas the holistic mode is selected for "close frequency" tone pairs in Chinese and for "distant frequency" tone pairs in Polish subjects, reflecting a double dissociation of function.

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Accession: 056142112

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PMID: 24060605

DOI: 10.1016/j.cognition.2013.08.019


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