The title and abstract for next week’s colloquium, which will be given by Beth MacLeod (Carleton University), are provided below. Room details coming soon!

If you would like to meet with Beth before the talk on Friday, please email Connie with your availability if you haven’t already.

Title: The other piece of the imitation puzzle: individual variation in the perception of phonetic imitation

Abstract: Phonetic imitation occurs when, during an interaction, a speaker’s pronunciation shifts to become more like that of the person to whom they are speaking. According to Communication Accommodation Theory (e.g., Giles, 1973), speakers imitate their interlocutors to minimize social distance between themselves and their interlocutors and to influence the interlocutor’s impression of them. Previous work has found that when speakers imitate, they and the interaction are evaluated more positively than when no imitation takes place (Chartrand & Bargh, 1999; Giles & Smith, 1979; Street, 1982). In order for this positive evaluation to occur, however, the interlocutor must perceive the imitation. While many studies on the production of imitation use a perceptual method (often an AXB task) to assess how much the talkers have imitated (e.g., Dias & Rosenblum, 2016; Goldinger, 1998), virtually no study has focused on the behavior of the listeners and whether they might vary in their ability to perceive imitation. If listeners do vary in this ability, it might predict that they would also vary in their ability to access social cues, both in their own conversations and in conversations they observe between others (e.g., Dias et al., 2021; Giles et al., 1991; Pardo et al., 2012; Shepard et al., 2001). As such, the perception of imitation is a critical piece of the puzzle in understanding the social motivations and consequences of imitation.

In this talk, I discuss my recent research focusing on the variability and consistency of listener performance in an AXB assessment of phonetic imitation. The results suggest that individuals differ in their ability to perceive imitation in this task, but that this variation reflects stable characteristics of the individual listener, rather than random fluctuations. I also discuss how this research will set the stage for future work exploring an individual-level connection between the perception and production of imitation.