The perceptual consequences of trial‐to‐trial changes in the voice of the talker on spoken word recognition were examined. The results from a series of experiments using perceptual identification and naming tasks demonstrated that perceptual performance decreases when the voice of the talker changes from trial to trial compared to performance when the voice on each trial remains the same. In addition, the effects of talker variability on word recognition appeared to be more robust and less dependent on task than the effects of word frequency and lexical structure. Possible hypotheses regarding the nature of the processes giving rise to these effects are discussed, with particular attention to the idea that the processing of information about the talker’s voice is intimately related to early perceptual processes that extract acoustic–phonetic information from the speech signal.

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