Perceptual changes are experienced during rapid and continuous repetition of a speech form, leading to an auditory illusion known as the verbal transformation effect. Although verbal transformations are considered to reflect mainly the perceptual organization and interpretation of speech, the present study was designed to test whether or not speech production constraints may participate in the emergence of verbal representations. With this goal in mind, we examined whether variations in the articulatory cohesion of repeated nonsense words—specifically, temporal relationships between artic- ulatory events—could lead to perceptual asymmetries in verbal transformations. The first experiment displayed variations in timing relations between two consonantal gestures embedded in various non- sense syllables in a repetitive speech production task. In the second experiment, French participants repeatedly uttered these syllables while searching for verbal transformation. Syllable transformation frequencies followed the temporal clustering between consonantal gestures: The more synchronized the gestures, the more stable and attractive the syllable. In the third experiment, which involved a covert repetition mode, the pattern was maintained without external speech movements. However, when a purely perceptual condition was used in a fourth experiment, the previously observed perceptual asymmetries of verbal transformations disappeared. These experiments demonstrate the existence of an asymmetric bias in the verbal transformation effect linked to articulatory control constraints. The persistence of this effect from an overt to a covert repetition procedure provides evidence that articulatory stability constraints originating from the action system may be involved in auditory imagery. The absence of the asymmetric bias during a purely auditory procedure rules out perceptual mechanisms as a possible explanation of the observed asymmetries.
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