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Categorical perception

PHONETICS: The mechanism of categorical perception enables listeners to focus on distinctive acoustic features in speech, such as the difference between the phonemes /d/ and /t/ in 'bead' and 'beat'. Furthermore, the mechanism enables listeners to ignore irrelevant acoustic differences, such as differences in pronunciation when two different speakers produce the same word. Categorical perception is acquired as part of the acquisition of the native language. The listeners learns to be sensitive to differences between phoneme categories and, at the same time, to be less sensitive to differences within a phoneme category.
LIT. Schouten, M.E.H. & van Hessen, A.J. (1992)

A short tutorial and experiment on categorical perception
Audiodemonstrations categorical perception