ESR1: Categorization of speech sounds as a collective decision process

PhD fellowship

Two participants in a study on conversational interaction, in the sound proof room of the Laboratoire Parole et Langage, Aix-Marseille University


For two people to understand each other, words must refer to the same entities for both of them. How the relations between speech sounds and meanings come to be collectively established within a linguistic community, is an issue at the heart of speech and language. ESR1’s project will be to explore this issue in the laboratory, using—to our knowledge for the first time — a joint-perception experimental paradigm. Groups of participants will be asked to identify speech sounds in word-to-picture matching tasks.

The tasks will be performed on individual computers but each participant will receive information on the other participants’ responses. The main goal will be to determine to what degree perceptual convergence occurs across participants in the categorization of speech sounds. ESR1 will manipulate the way in which response-related information circulates among participants to characterize the effects this manipulation may have on perceptual convergence. A model will be developed of perceptual convergence as a collective decision process. Predictions of this model will be tested using an artificial agent performing the task together with human participants.

Expected results:

  • Significant contribution to the experimental study of the collective establishment of sound-to-meaning relationships;
  • Experimental platform for studies on the joint processing and understanding of spoken language.

Based in Aix-en Provence, France

Full-time three-year contract, starting September 2020

PhD enrolment at: Aix-Marseille University, France

Main supervisor’s institution: Aix-Marseille University, France

Main supervisor: Prof Noël Nguyen


  • DAVI, Puteaux: setting-up of the artificial agent employed in the joint-perception experiments (5,5 months);
  • University of Edinburgh (UEDIN): guidance on how to integrate perceptual convergence processes in a cognitive model of conversation (5 months).

Co-supervisors’ institutions:

  • DAVI, Puteaux, France
  • The University of Edinburgh (UEDIN), UK

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