Production and accent affect memory

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In three experiments, we examined the effects of accents and production on free recall and yes/no recognition memory. In the study phase, native English participants heard English words pronounced by a speaker with an accent that is highly familiar to the participant (American English) or with a less familiar accent (Dutch). Participants had to either say aloud (produce) the word that they heard in their natural pronunciation (Exp. 1a) or imitate the original speaker (Exp. 1b) or simply listen to the word. In all experiments, in both recall and recognition, produced words and words spoken in an unfamiliar accent were more likely to be recalled and more likely to be recognized, than words that were listened to or words spoken in a more familiar accent. In recognition but not in recall, listening to words spoken in an unfamiliar accent improved memory more than listening to words spoken in a familiar accent. Results suggest that listening allows the acoustic-phonetic details of a speaker to be retained in memory, but that production attenuates details about the original speaker’s pronunciation. Finally, the benefit of production for memory does not differ whether one produces in one’s natural accent or imitates that of the speaker.


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