Irrelevant speech is known to interfere with short-term memory of visually presented items. Here, this irrelevant speech effect was studied with a factorial combination of three variables: the participants' native language, the language the irrelevant speech was derived from, and the playback direction of the irrelevant speech. We used locally time-reversed speech as well to disentangle the contributions of local and global integrity. German and Japanese speech was presented to German (n = 79) and Japanese (n = 81) participants while participants were performing a serial-recall task. In both groups, any kind of irrelevant speech impaired recall accuracy as compared to a pink-noise control condition. When the participants' native language was presented, normal speech and locally time-reversed speech with short segment duration, preserving intelligibility, was the most disruptive. Locally time-reversed speech with longer segment durations and normal or locally time-reversed speech played entirely backward, both lacking intelligibility, was less disruptive. When the unfamiliar, incomprehensible signal was presented as irrelevant speech, no significant difference was found between locally time-reversed speech and its globally inverted version, suggesting that the effect of global inversion depends on the familiarity of the language.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
- Acoustics and Ultrasonics