Skip to main content

Effect of voicing on perceptual auditory laterality in Estonian and Norwegian native speakers


As a reliable and valid measures of perceptual auditory laterality, dichotic listening has been successfully applied in studies in many countries and languages. However, languages differ in the linguistic relevance of change in initial phoneme of words (e.g., for word identification). In the present cross-language study, we examine the effect of these differences on dichotic-listening task performance to establish how characteristics of one's native language affect the perception of nonnative phonological features. We compared 33 native speakers of Norwegian, a language characterized by a clear distinction between voiced and unvoiced initial plosive consonants, with 30 native speakers of Estonian, a language that has exclusively unvoiced initial phonemes. Using a free-report dichotic-listening paradigm utilizing pairs of voiced (/ba/, /da/, /ga/) and unvoiced (/pa/, /ta/, /ka/) stop-consonant vowels as stimulus material, the Norwegian native speakers were found to be more sensitive to the voicing of the initial plosive than the Estonian group. “Voicing” explained 69% and 18% of the variance in the perceptual auditory laterality in the Norwegian and the Estonian sample, respectively. This indicates that experiential differences, likely during acquisition of the mother tongue in early development, permanently shape the sensitivity to the voicing contrast.

Corresponding author
ADDRESS FOR CORRESPONDENCE René Westerhausen, Research Group for Lifespan Changes in Brain and Cognition, Department of Psychology, University of Oslo, POB 1094, Blindern, 0317 Oslo, Norway. E-mail:
Hide All
Andersson, M., Llera, J. E., Rimol, L. M., & Hugdahl, K. (2008). Using dichotic listening to study bottom-up and top-down processing in children and adults. Child Neuropsychology, 14, 470479.
Arciuli, J., Rankine, T., & Monaghan, P. (2010). Auditory discrimination of voice-onset time and its relationship with reading ability. Laterality, 15, 343360.
Asu, E. L., & Teras, P. (2009). Estonian. Journal of the International Phonetic Association, 39, 367372.
Bayazıt, O., Öniz, A., Hahn, C., Güntürkün, O., & Özgören, M. (2009). Dichotic listening revisited: Trial-by-trial ERP analyses reveal intra- and interhemispheric differences. Neuropsychologia, 47, 536545.
Berlin, C. I., Lowe-Bell, S. S., Cullen, J. K. Jr., Thompson, C. L., & Loovis, C. F. (1973). Dichotic speech perception: An interpretation of right-ear advantage and temporal offset effects. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 53, 699709.
Best, C. T., McRoberts, G. W., & Goodell, E. (2001). Discrimination of non-native consonant contrasts varying in perceptual assimilation to the listener's native phonological system. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 109, 775794.
Bless, J. J., Westerhausen, R., Arciuli, J., Kompus, K., Gudmundsen, M., & Hugdahl, K. (2013). “Right on all occasions?”—On the feasibility of laterality research using a smartphone dichotic listening application. Frontiers in Psychology, 13, 42.
Bless, J. J., Westerhausen, R., Torkildsen, J. V. K., Gudmundsen, M., Kompus, K., & Hugdahl, K. (2015). Laterality across languages: Results from a global dichotic listening study using a smartphone application. Laterality, 20, 434452.
Brancucci, A., Penna, S. D., Babiloni, C., Vecchio, F., Capotosto, P., Rossi, D., Rossini, . . ., P., M. (2008). Neuromagnetic functional coupling during dichotic listening of speech sounds. Human Brain Mapping, 29, 253264.
Bryden, M. P. (1988). An overview of the dichotic listening procedure and its relation to cerebral organization. In Hugdahl, K. (Ed.), Handbook of dichotic listening: Theory, methods, and research (pp. 144). Chichester: Wiley.
Cutting, J. E. (1976). Auditory and linguistic processes in speech perception: Inferences from six fusions in dichotic listening. Psychological Review, 83, 114140.
Commission, European. (2012). Europeans and their languages. Factsheet Estonia. Special Eurobarometer 386. Retrieved from
Fernandes, M., Smith, M., Logan, W., Crawley, A., & McAndrews, M. (2006). Comparing language lateralization determined by dichotic listening and fMRI activation in frontal and temporal lobes in children with epilepsy. Brain and Language, 96, 106114.
Gadea, M., Marti-Bonmatí, L., Arana, E., Espert, R., Salvador, A., & Casanova, B. (2009). Corpus callosum function in verbal dichotic listening: Inferences from a longitudinal follow-up of relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis patients. Brain and Language, 110, 101105.
Galle, M. E., & McMurray, B. (2014). The development of voicing categories: A quantitative review of over 40 years of infant speech perception research. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 21, 884906.
Gerber, S. E., & Goldman, P. (1971). Ear preference for dichotically presented verbal stimuli as a function of report strategies. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 49, 11631168.
Hellige, J. B. (1993). Hemispheric asymmetry: What's right and what's left. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Hirnstein, M., Westerhausen, R., Korsnes, M. S., & Hugdahl, K. (2013). Sex differences in language asymmetry are age-dependent and small: A large-scale, consonant–vowel dichotic listening study with behavioral and fMRI data. Cortex, 49, 19101921.
Hiscock, M., Inch, R., & Kinsbourne, M. (1999). Allocation of attention in dichotic listening: Differential effects on the detection and localization of signals. Neuropsychology, 13, 404.
Hiscock, M., & Kinsbourne, M. (2011). Attention and the right-ear advantage: What is the connection? Brain and Cognition, 76, 263275.
Hugdahl, K. (2003). Dichotic listening in the study of auditory laterality. In Hugdahl, K. & Davidson, R. J. (Eds.), The asymmetrical brain (pp. 441475). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Hugdahl, K. (2011). Fifty years of dichotic listening research—Still going and going and . . . Brain and Cognition, 76, 211213.
Hugdahl, K., & Andersson, L. (1986). The “forced-attention paradigm” in dichotic listening to CV-syllables: A comparison between adults and children. Cortex, 22, 417432.
Hugdahl, K., Westerhausen, R., Alho, K., Medvedev, S., Laine, M., & Hämäläinen, H. (2009). Attention and cognitive control: Unfolding the dichotic listening story. Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, 50, 1122.
Kompus, K., Specht, K., Ersland, L., Juvodden, H. T., van Wageningen, H., Hugdahl, K., & Westerhausen, R. (2012). A forced-attention dichotic listening fMRI study on 113 subjects. Brain and Language, 121, 240247.
Kuhl, P. K., Stevens, E., Hayashi, A., Deguchi, T., Kiritani, S., & Iverson, P. (2006). Infants show a facilitation effect for native language phonetic perception between 6 and 12 months. Developmental Science, 9, F13F21.
Oldfield, R. C. (1971). The assessment and analysis of handedness: The Edinburgh Inventory. Neuropsychologia, 9, 97113.
Rimol, L. M., Eichele, T., & Hugdahl, K. (2006). The effect of voice-onset-time on dichotic listening with consonant–vowel syllables. Neuropsychologia, 44, 191196.
Sandmann, P., Eichele, T., Specht, K., Jäncke, L., Rimol, L. M., Nordby, H., & Hugdahl, K. (2007). Hemispheric asymmetries in the processing of temporal acoustic cues in consonant-vowel syllables. Restorative Neurology and Neuroscience, 25, 227240.
Speaks, C., Niccum, N., Carney, E., & Johnson, C. (1981). Stimulus dominance in dichotic listening. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 24, 430437.
Takio, F., Koivisto, M., Jokiranta, L., Rashid, F., Kallio, J., Tuominen, T., . . . Hämäläinen, H. (2009). The effect of age on attentional modulation in dichotic listening. Developmental Neuropsychology, 34, 225239.
Tanaka, S., Kanzaki, R., Yoshibayashi, M., Kamiya, T., & Sugishita, M. (1999). Dichotic listening in patients with situs inversus: Brain asymmetry and situs asymmetry. Neuropsychologia, 37, 869874.
Tervaniemi, M., & Hugdahl, K. (2003). Lateralization of auditory-cortex functions. Brain Research Reviews, 43, 231246.
Toga, A. W., & Thompson, P. M. (2003). Mapping brain asymmetry. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 4, 3748.
Van der Haegen, L., Westerhausen, R., Hugdahl, K., & Brysbaert, M. (2013). Speech dominance is a better predictor of functional brain asymmetry than handedness: A combined fMRI word generation and behavioral dichotic listening study. Neuropsychologia, 51, 9197.
Voyer, D. (2011). Sex differences in dichotic listening. Brain and Cognition, 76, 245255.
Voyer, D., & Techentin, C. (2009). Dichotic listening with consonant–vowel pairs: The role of place of articulation and stimulus dominance. Journal of Phonetics, 37, 162172.
Westerhausen, R., Helland, T., Ofte, S., & Hugdahl, K. (2010). A longitudinal study of the effect of voicing on the dichotic listening ear advantage in boys and girls at age 5 to 8. Developmental Neuropsychology, 35, 752761.
Westerhausen, R., Kompus, K., & Hugdahl, K. (2014). Mapping hemispheric symmetries, relative asymmetries, and absolute asymmetries underlying the auditory laterality effect. NeuroImage, 84, 962970.
Westerhausen, R., Passow, S., & Kompus, K. (2013). Reactive cognitive-control processes in free-report consonant–vowel dichotic listening. Brain and Cognition, 83, 288296.
Westerhausen, R., Woerner, W., Kreuder, F., Schweiger, E., Hugdahl, K., & Wittling, W. (2006). The role of the corpus callosum in dichotic listening: A combined morphological and diffusion tensor imaging study. Neuropsychology, 20, 272.
Wexler, B. E. (1988). Dichotic presentation as a method for single hemisphere stimulation studies. In Hugdahl, K. (Ed.), Handbook of dichotic listening: Theory, methods, and research (pp. 85115). Chichester: Wiley.
Wexler, B. E., & Halwes, T. (1983). Increasing the power of dichotic methods: The fused rhymed words test. Neuropsychologia, 21, 5966.
Ziegler, J. C., & Goswami, U. (2005). Reading acquisition, developmental dyslexia, and skilled reading across languages: A psycholinguistic grain size theory. Psychological Bulletin, 131, 329.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Applied Psycholinguistics
  • ISSN: 0142-7164
  • EISSN: 1469-1817
  • URL: /core/journals/applied-psycholinguistics
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed