Joe Toscano

Joe Toscano

Assistant Professor
Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences
Villanova University
Phone: 610-519-4755
Office: 344 Tolentine Hall



Hi there. I'm an Assistant Professor of Psychological and Brain Sciences at Villanova University, where I direct the Word Recognition and Auditory Perception (WRAP) Lab. Our group studies speech perception, hearing, and language processing, using a combination of cognitive neuroscience, behavioral, and computational techniques. I teach graduate and undergraduate courses in psychology, neuroscience, and cognitive science, as well as a laboratory course on speech perception for non-science majors.

Education and Academic Positions



My research focuses on questions about speech and language processing:

To answer these questions, we use techniques that allow us to study spoken word recognition as it happens. These include cognitive neuroscience methods (ERP and optical neuroimaging techniques) that capture early perceptual processes and eye-tracking approaches that measure lexical activation as the speech signal unfolds. We use these data to inform computational models of speech perception that address questions about statistical learning and speech development.

For more information, check out our lab website.

Selected Publications

Full list on lab website and Google Scholar profile. Talks/presentations on lab website.

  1. Toscano JC, Lansing C (in press). Age-Related changes in temporal and spectral cue weights in speech. To appear in Language and Speech. [pdf]
  2. Buxó-Lugo A, Toscano JC, Watson DG (2018). Effects of participant engagement on prosodic prominence. Discourse Processes, 55, 305-323. [pdf]
  3. Brown-Schmidt S, Toscano JC (2017). Gradient acoustic information induces long-lasting referential uncertainty in short discourses. Language, Cognition, & Neuroscience, 32, 1211-1228 [pdf]
  4. Getz LM, Nordeen ER, Vrabic SC, Toscano JC (2017). Modeling the development of audiovisual cue integration in speech perception. Brain Sciences, 7, 32. [pdf]
  5. Toscano JC, McMurray B (2015). The time-course of speaking rate compensation: Effects of sentential rate and vowel length on voicing judgments. Language, Cognition, and Neuroscience, 30, 529-543. [pdf] [PubMed]
  6. Toscano JC, Buxó-Lugo A, Watson DG (2015). Using game-based approaches to increase level of engagement in research and education. In S. Dikkers (Ed.), TeacherCraft: How Teachers Learn to Use Minecraft in Their Classrooms. Pittsburgh: ETC Press. [pdf]
  7. Toscano JC, Allen JB (2014). Across and within consonant errors for isolated syllables in noise. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 57, 2293-2307. [pdf] [PubMed]
  8. Toscano JC, Anderson ND, McMurray B (2013). Reconsidering the role of temporal order in spoken word recognition. Psychonomic Bulletin and Review, 20. 981-987. [pdf] [Supplementary Material] [PubMed]
  9. Toscano JC, McMurray B (2012). Cue-integration and context effects in speech: Evidence against speaking-rate normalization. Attention, Perception, and Psychophysics, 74, 1284-1301. [pdf] [PubMed]
  10. Toscano JC (2011). Perceiving speech in context: Compensation for contextual variability at the level of acoustic cue encoding and categorization. Doctoral dissertation, University of Iowa. [pdf]
  11. Toscano, JC, McMurray B, Dennhardt J, Luck SJ (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. [pdf] [PubMed]
  12. Toscano JC, McMurray B (2010). Cue integration with categories: Weighting acoustic cues in speech using unsupervised learning and distributional statistics. Cognitive Science, 34, 434-464. MATLAB code available via email. [pdf] [PubMed]
  13. Toscano JC, Mueller KL, McMurray B, Tomblin JB (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. [pdf]
  14. McMurray B, Aslin RN, Toscano JC (2009). Statistical learning of phonetic categories: Insights from a computational approach. Developmental Science, 12, 369-378. [pdf] [PubMed]
  15. McMurray B, Horst J, Toscano JC, Samuelson LK (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. [pdf]
  16. Toscano JC, 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. Winner of the Computational Modeling Prize in Perception and Action. [pdf]
  17. Toscano JC, Perry LK, Mueller KL, Bean AF, Galle ME, Samuelson LK (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. [pdf]


Teaching & Student Training

Former Graduate Students

I've had the privilege of working with a number of outstanding graduate students in my lab at Villanova. Check out the complete list of our lab alumni here. The following students have completed their M.S. theses with me:


I teach courses in the Psychology, CBN, and Cognitive Science programs at Villanova. I also teach a Mendel Science Experience (MSE) course in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences called Sounds of Human Language. The course provides non-science majors with a background in the techniques and approaches used in the natural sciences. We study this through the lens of spoken language, exploring the acoustic characteristics of speech sounds and the mechanisms underlying speech perception. The course is well-suited to students who are interested in language and speech communication.

Some of the courses I teach:

Prospective Students

Postdocs and grad students

If you are interested in doing postdoctoral work in the lab or applying to our graduate program, please email me.

The Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences offers a research-based M.S. in Psychology. Our graduate program is particularly well-suited for students who would like to obtain additional research experience before starting their Ph.D. If you are a prospective student applying to the M.S. program, please feel contact me to find out more about working in the lab. Current Villanova graduate student? Students in the lab are involved in a variety of projects. Contact me to find out more about joining the lab (the sooner the better!). Information for prospective thesis students is available on the Department Sharepoint site.


Our lab is always looking for good Psychology and Cognitive & Behavioral Neuroscience majors (and other majors!) who want to learn more about perception and language. Undergraduate research assistants are an integral part of our team and are involved with running participants, creating stimuli for experiments, and analyzing data. Several students have also worked on their own research projects in the lab. If you are thinking about applying to grad school, working in a lab will provide you with essential research experience.

We review applications for lab positions throughout the year, and RAs typically start working in the lab at the beginning of the semester. A 4-6 hour/week commitment is required and students may enroll in PSY 2150 (1 credit) after their first semester in the lab. I am sometimes able to support a limited number of students over the summer (generally, these are students who have already been working in the lab), but summer volunteer positions are a possibility as well. If you would like to join the lab, please send me an email with the following info:

Because several of our techniques require a considerable amount of training (running ERP experiments can take a semester or more to learn), we generally do not accept seniors as new lab RAs, but I'm happy to discuss this in exceptional circumstances.