Specialized memory systems for learning spoken words
Number of pages
SourceJournal of Experimental Psychology : Learning, Memory and Cognition, 46, 1, (2020), pp. 189-199
Article / Letter to editor
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SW OZ DCC PL
PI Group Neurobiology of Language
Journal of Experimental Psychology : Learning, Memory and Cognition
Subject110 000 Neurocognition of Language; Psycholinguistics; Language in Interaction
Learning new words entails, inter alia, encoding of novel sound patterns and transferring those patterns from short-term to long-term memory. We report a series of 5 experiments that investigated whether the memory systems engaged in word learning are specialized for speech and whether utilization of these systems results in a benefit for word learning. Sine-wave synthesis (SWS) was applied to spoken nonwords, and listeners were or were not informed (through instruction and familiarization) that the SWS stimuli were derived from actual utterances. This allowed us to manipulate whether listeners would process sound sequences as speech or as nonspeech. In a sound–picture association learning task, listeners who processed the SWS stimuli as speech consistently learned faster and remembered more associations than listeners who processed the same stimuli as nonspeech. The advantage of listening in "speech mode" was stable over the course of 7 days. These results provide causal evidence that access to a specialized, phonological short-term memory system is important for word learning. More generally, this study supports the notion that subsystems of auditory short-term memory are specialized for processing different types of acoustic information.
NWO (Grant code:info:eu-repo/grantAgreement/NWO/Gravitation/024.001.006)
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