Relationship between individual differences in speech processing and cognitive functions

Jinghua Ou, Sam Po Law, Suk Yee Roxana Fung

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


A growing body of research has suggested that cognitive abilities may play a role in individual differences in speech processing. The present study took advantage of a widespread linguistic phenomenon of sound change to systematically assess the relationships between speech processing and various components of attention and working memory in the auditory and visual modalities among typically developed Cantonese-speaking individuals. The individual variations in speech processing are captured in an ongoing sound change–tone merging in Hong Kong Cantonese, in which typically developed native speakers are reported to lose the distinctions between some tonal contrasts in perception and/or production. Three groups of participants were recruited, with a first group of good perception and production, a second group of good perception but poor production, and a third group of good production but poor perception. Our findings revealed that modality-independent abilities of attentional switching/control and working memory might contribute to individual differences in patterns of speech perception and production as well as discrimination latencies among typically developed speakers. The findings not only have the potential to generalize to speech processing in other languages, but also broaden our understanding of the omnipresent phenomenon of language change in all languages.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1725-1732
Number of pages8
JournalPsychonomic Bulletin and Review
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2015


  • Attentional switching
  • Individual differences
  • Inhibitory control
  • Speech perception
  • Speech production
  • Working memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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