Aaron D. Mitchel, Assistant Professor of Psychology
Speech is inextricably multisensory: both auditory and visual components provide critical information for all aspects of speech processing, including speech segmentation, the visual components of which have been the target of a growing number of studies. In particular, a recent study (Mitchel and Weiss, 2014) established that adults can utilize facial cues (i.e., visual prosody) to identify word boundaries in fluent speech. The current study expanded upon these results, using an eye tracker to identify highly attended facial features of the audiovisual display used in Mitchel and Weiss (2014). Subjects spent the most time watching the eyes and mouth. A significant trend in gaze durations was found with the longest gaze duration on the mouth, followed by the eyes and then the nose. In addition, eye gaze patterns changed across familiarization as subjects learned the word boundaries, showing decreased attention to the mouth in later blocks while attention on other facial features remained consistent. These findings highlight the importance of the visual component of speech processing and suggest that the mouth may play a critical role in visual speech segmentation.
Lusk, Laina G. and Mitchel, Aaron D. “Differential Gaze Patterns on Eyes and Mouth During Audiovisual Speech Segmentation.” Frontiers in Psychology 7, (2016) : 52-52.