Author's School

Graduate School of Arts & Sciences

Author's Department/Program



English (en)

Date of Award

Winter 12-1-2013

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Chair and Committee

Mitchell S Sommers


Audiovisual: AV) speech perception is perception in which both auditory and visual information is available in order to understand a talker, compared to an auditory signal alone, during face-to-face communication. This form of communication yields significantly higher word recognition performance as compared to either sensory modality alone, constituting a general AV advantage for speech perception. Despite an overall AV advantage, older adults seem to receive less benefit from this bimodal presentation than do younger adults. However, there is evidence to suggest that not all age-related deficits in AV speech perception are of a sensory nature, but are also influenced by cognitive factors: e.g. Pichora-Fuller et al., 1995). In the current study, I extend an existing model of spoken-word recognition to the AV domain and refer to the new model as the Auditory-Visual Neighborhood Activation Model: AV-NAM). The primary goal of the current study was to examine the cognitive factors that contribute to age-related and individual differences in AV perception of words varying in lexical density: i.e. easy and hard words). Forty-nine younger and 50 older adults completed a series of cognitive inhibition tasks and several spoken word identification tasks. The words were presented in auditory-only, visual-only, and AV conditions. Overall, younger adults demonstrated better inhibitory abilities and higher word identification performance than older adults. However, whereas no relationship was observed between inhibitory measures and word identification performance in younger adults, there was a significant relationship between inhibition, as measured by Stroop interference, and intelligibility of lexically difficult words in older adults. These results are interpreted within the framework of the newly adapted AV-NAM and the implications for inhibitory deficits in older adults that contribute to impairments in speech perception.


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