Joe Toscano

Joe Toscano, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor
Department of Psychology
Villanova University
800 E Lancaster Ave
Villanova, PA 19085
Office: Tolentine 344
Email: joseph.toscano@
Phone: 610-519-4755
Fax: 610-519-4269
Twitter: @joetosc


My name is Joe Toscano, and I'm an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology at Villanova University where I direct the Word Recognition and Auditory Perception (WRAP) Lab.

I’m originally from snowy Rochester, NY and received my B.S. in Brain & Cognitive Sciences from the University of Rochester where I worked with Mike Tanenhaus. I then began a 9-year journey to the Midwest where I received my Ph.D. in Cognition and Perception from the Department of Psychology at the University of Iowa, working with Bob McMurray.

After grad school, I spent three years in Champaign-Urbana as a Beckman Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Illinois, where I had the opportunity to work with researchers in a number of fields: Susan Garnsey, Duane Watson, Sarah Brown-Schmidt, Jont Allen, Charissa Lansing, Monica Fabiani, and Gabriele Gratton (among others!). Now I'm back in the Northeast, where I joined the faculty in Psychology at Villanova in 2014.

My research focuses on auditory perception and spoken language comprehension. How are we able to recognize speech accurately, yet we struggle to build computer systems that can do so equally well? How does the ability to understand speech emerge over development, and how malleable is it in adulthood? How do listeners adapt to accents and understand talkers they have never encountered before? How can we improve speech recognition for listeners who use assistive devices like hearing aids and cochlear implants?

To answer these questions, I use a techniques that allow us to study spoken word recognition as it happens. These include cognitive neuroscience methods (electrophysiological and optical neuroimaging techniques) that tell us what information listeners have access to at early stages of perception. I also use eye-tracking approaches to study lexical activation as the speech signal unfolds. These data inform models of speech perception that allow us to ask questions about the limits of unsupervised statistical learning and understand how listeners weight acoustic cues in speech.

More about my research can be found below. A list of publications, my CV, and calendar are also available here. Feel free to send me an email (joseph.toscano at if you'd like to get in touch with me.

Thanks for visiting! — Joe Toscano



Follow the links below to read more about my current research.


Published and in press journal articles, chapters, and other manuscripts. Please contact me if you are unable to access any of these papers.

Toscano, J.C., & Allen, J.B. (forthcoming). Across and within consonant errors for isolated syllables in noise. To appear in Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research.

Toscano, J.C., & McMurray, B. (forthcoming). The time-course of speaking rate compensation: Effects of sentential rate and vowel length on voicing judgments. To appear in Language, Cognition, and Neuroscience.

Toscano, J.C., Buxó-Lugo, A., & Watson, D.G. (forthcoming). Using game-based approaches to increase level of engagement in research and education. In S. Dikkers (Ed.), TeacherCraft: Using Minecraft for Teaching and Learning. Pittsburgh: ETC Press.

Toscano, J.C., Anderson, N.D., & McMurray, B. (2013). Reconsidering the role of temporal order in spoken word recognition. Psychonomic Bulletin and Review, 20. 981-987.

Toscano, J.C., & McMurray, B. (2012). Cue-integration and context effects in speech: Evidence against speaking-rate normalization. Attention, Perception, and Psychophysics, 74, 1284-1301.   [PubMed Central]

Toscano, J.C. (2011). Perceiving speech in context: Compensation for contextual variability at the level of acoustic cue encoding and categorization. Doctoral dissertation, University of Iowa.

Toscano, J.C., McMurray, B., Dennhardt, J., & Luck, S.J. (2010). Continuous perception and graded categorization: Electrophysiological evidence for a linear relationship between the acoustic signal and perceptual encoding of speech. Psychological Science, 21, 1532-1540.   [PubMed Central]

Toscano, J.C., & McMurray, B. (2010). Cue integration with categories: Weighting acoustic cues in speech using unsupervised learning and distributional statistics. Cognitive Science, 34, 434-464.   [PubMed Central]

Toscano, J.C., Mueller, K.L, McMurray, B., & Tomblin, J.B. (2010). Simulating individual differences in language ability and genetic differences in FOXP2 using a neural network model of the SRT task. In S. Ohlsson & R. Catrambone, Proceedings of the 32nd Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society (pp. 2230-2235). Austin, TX: Cognitive Science Society.

McMurray, B., Aslin, R.N., & Toscano, J.C. (2009). Statistical learning of phonetic categories: Insights from a computational approach. Developmental Science, 12, 369-378.   [PubMed Central]

McMurray, B., Horst, J., Toscano, J.C., & Samuelson, L.K. (2009). Towards an integration of connectionist learning and dynamical systems processing: Case studies in speech and lexical development. In J.P. Spencer, M. Thomas, & J. McClelland (Eds.), Toward a Unified Theory of Development: Connectionism and Dynamic Systems Theory Re-Considered. New York: Oxford University Press.

Toscano, J.C. & McMurray, B. (2008). Using the distributional statistics of speech sounds for weighting and integrating acoustic cues. In B.C. Love, K. McRae, & V.M. Sloutsky (Eds.), Proceedings of the 30th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society (pp. 433-438). Austin, TX: Cognitive Science Society.

Toscano, J.C., Perry, L.K., Mueller, K.L., Bean, A.F., Galle, M.E., & Samuelson, L.K. (2008). Language as shaped by the brain; the brain as shaped by development. Commentary on Christiansen & Chater, “Language as shaped by the brain”, Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 31, 535-536.   [Local copy]

Toscano, J.C. (2005). Effect of object salience on eye movements in a visual-linguistic task. Honors thesis in Brain and Cognitive Sciences, University of Rochester.

Toscano, J.C., & Beutter, B.R. (2005). Performance during visual search: Designing spacecraft with humans in mind. University of Rochester Journal of Undergraduate Research, 3, 8-12.

Toscano, J.C. (2004). Effect of salience on saccadic performance during visual search. Technical report for NASA Undergraduate Student Research Program.