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Northwestern School of Communication

Beverly A. Wright

Director of the Hugh Knowles Center; Professor
Beverly A. Wright

Beverly Wright and her students explore the general principles of auditory learning, a process that leads to dramatic improvements in perceptual skills. The lab seeks to identify the circumstances that are necessary for learning to occur as well as those that disrupt learning. These principles are examined using stimuli ranging from simple sounds to speech, and tasks ranging from fine-grained discrimination to categorization and intelligibility. For example, the lab has demonstrated that exposure to an acoustic stimulus can facilitate learning on a perceptual task, but only when that exposure occurs within ~30 minutes of practice on that task.

Although the lab's research program focuses on normal adults, it also pursues how learning changes with age, sensory experience (hearing loss), and cognitive background (e.g., language and reading disorders). One proposal currently under study with a learning paradigm is that individuals with reading disorders often perform poorly on auditory perceptual tasks because their perceptual development is delayed in childhood and then halted during adolescence. Thus, research on perceptual learning may lead to more effective training strategies for those with perceptual disorders and may be used as objective, clinical measures to guide diagnosis and treatment of cognitive disorders.


  • PhD Experimental Psychology, University of Texas at Austin
  • BS English and Linguistics, Indiana University

Recent and other selected publications

  • Wright, B.A., LeBlanc, E.K., Little, D.F., Conderman, J.S., and Glavin C.C. (in review) “Semi-supervised learning of a non-native phonetic contrast: How much feedback is enough?” Attention, Perception, and Psychophysics [invited]
  • Ning, R., Trosman, S. J., Sabin, A. T., and Wright, B.A. (2019) “Perceptual-learning evidence for inter-onset-interval and frequency-specific processing of fast rhythms,” Attention, Perception, and Psychophysics, 81, 533-542.
  • Little, D.F., Cheng, H., and Wright, B.A. (2019) “Inducing musical-interval learning by combining task practice with periods of stimulus exposure alone,” Attention, Perception, and Psychophysics, 81, 344-357.
  • *Fleming, G., Wright, B.A., and Wilson, D.A. (2019) “The value of homework: exposure to odors in the home cage enhances odor discrimination learning in mice,” Chemical Senses, 44, 135-143. doi:10.1093/chemse/bjy083
  • Huyck, J.J. and Wright, B.A. (2017) “Transient sex differences during adolescence on auditory perceptual tasks.” Developmental Science; e12574.
  • Little, D.F., Zhang, Y-Z, and Wright, B.A. (2017) “Disruption of perceptual learning by a brief practice break,” Current Biology, 27, 3699-3705.
  • Wright, B.A., and Fitzgerald, M.B. (2017) “Detection of tones of unexpected frequency in amplitude-modulated noise” Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 142, 2043-2046. (L).
  • Wright, B.A., Baese-Berk, M., Marrone, N., and Bradlow, A.R. (2015) “Enhancing speech learning by combining task practice with periods of stimulus exposure without practice,” Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 138, 928-937.
  • Erviti, M., Semal, C., Wright, B.A., Amestoy, A., Bouvard, M.P., and Demany, L. (2015) “A late-emerging auditory deficit in autism,” Neuropsychology, 29, 454-462.
  • Szpiro, S., Wright, B.A., and Carrasco, M. (2014) “Learning one task by interleaving practice with another task,” Vision Research, 101, 118-124.
  • Huyck, J.J. and Wright, B.A. (2011) “Late maturation of auditory perceptual learning,” Developmental Science, 14, 614-621.
  • Wright, B.A., Wilson, R.M., and Sabin, A.T. (2010) “Generalization lags behind learning on an auditory perceptual task,” Journal of Neuroscience, 30, 11635-11639.
  • *Wright, B.A., Sabin, A.T., Zhang, Y., Marrone, N., and Fitzgerald, M.B. (2010) “Enabling perceptual learning by alternating practice with sensory stimulation alone,” Journal of Neuroscience, 30, 12868-12877.
  • *Wright, B.A. and Zecker, S.G. (2004) “Learning problems, delayed development, and puberty,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 101, 9942-9946.
  • *Wright, B.A., Lombardino, L.J., King, W.M., Puranik, C.S., Leonard, C.M., and Merzenich, M.M. (1997). “Deficits in auditory temporal and spectral resolution in language-impaired children,” Nature, 387, 176-178.
  • (* indicate articles that were featured on the journal cover, highlighted in journal issue, or selected for press release)
  • Additional publications

Recent Awards and Honors

  • 2017 – Clarence Simon Award for Outstanding Teaching and Mentoring, School of Communication, Northwestern University
  • 2007 – Clarence Simon Award for Outstanding Teaching and Mentoring, School of Communication, Northwestern University
  • 2003 – Fellow, Acoustical Society of America
  • 1995 – R. Bruce Lindsay Award, Acoustical Society of America


  • CSD 306: Psychoacoustics
  • CSD 412: Scientific Writing
  • CSD 550-1: Scientific Thinking