No AccessJournal of Speech, Language, and Hearing ResearchResearch Article1 Jan 2017

Visual Context Enhanced: The Joint Contribution of Iconic Gestures and Visible Speech to Degraded Speech Comprehension


    This study investigated whether and to what extent iconic co-speech gestures contribute to information from visible speech to enhance degraded speech comprehension at different levels of noise-vocoding. Previous studies of the contributions of these 2 visual articulators to speech comprehension have only been performed separately.


    Twenty participants watched videos of an actress uttering an action verb and completed a free-recall task. The videos were presented in 3 speech conditions (2-band noise-vocoding, 6-band noise-vocoding, clear), 3 multimodal conditions (speech + lips blurred, speech + visible speech, speech + visible speech + gesture), and 2 visual-only conditions (visible speech, visible speech + gesture).


    Accuracy levels were higher when both visual articulators were present compared with 1 or none. The enhancement effects of (a) visible speech, (b) gestural information on top of visible speech, and (c) both visible speech and iconic gestures were larger in 6-band than 2-band noise-vocoding or visual-only conditions. Gestural enhancement in 2-band noise-vocoding did not differ from gestural enhancement in visual-only conditions.


    When perceiving degraded speech in a visual context, listeners benefit more from having both visual articulators present compared with 1. This benefit was larger at 6-band than 2-band noise-vocoding, where listeners can benefit from both phonological cues from visible speech and semantic cues from iconic gestures to disambiguate speech.


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