Embodied word-form learning: The motoric and perceptual determinants of verbal sequence learning

Amanda Sjoblom

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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Perceptual and motor processes are often viewed as peripheral systems, subservient to central ‘higher level’ cognitive structures. An alternative approach adopted in the present project characterises the cognitive functioning classically considered to be supported by specialised modules as the product of the embodied processes involved in organising environmental input into candidate-objects for action and producing goal-appropriate behavioural outputs. The present project is the first to test the view that learning novel verbal sequences—attributed classically to the operation of a distinct phonological short-term store—can be reconstrued within this alternative framework. Experiments 1-3 (Chapter 2) used the Hebb sequence learning paradigm—the enhanced serial recall of a repeating sequence amongst otherwise
non-repeating sequences—and provided several lines of support for a perceptual-motor account: First, Hebb sequence learning was attenuated when vocal-motor planning of the sequence was restricted by requiring participants to utter an irrelevant verbal sequence (‘articulatory suppression’) or when no recall-response was required. The effect of suppression was smaller with auditory sequences, however, suggesting that passive auditory perceptual organisation processes can independently support auditory Hebb sequence learning. Second, Hebb sequence learning was enhanced for phonologically similar compared to dissimilar sequences when that learning was driven solely by motor planning. Third, disturbing the consistency of the temporal grouping of the repeating sequence abolished learning but only when that grouping was instantiated within a motor-plan. Fourth, demonstrating more direct evidence for a contribution of passive perceptual organisation in learning an auditory-verbal sequence, promoting the perceptual grouping of every-other-item in
the repeating sequence by presenting it in alternating male-female voices led to the 7 learning of those non-adjacent-item sub-sequences. Experiments 4-6 provided evidence that motor planning processes also play a role in nonword learning in the paired-associate paradigm, where lists of nonwords (together with known words) are presented and recalled repeatedly. Nonword learning was attenuated when motor planning fluency was impeded either by articulatory suppression or as the result of phonological similarity within or between the nonwords. The findings are discussed in the context of the debate on modular versus embodied cognition as well as in terms of their implications for word-form learning.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Hughes, Rob, Supervisor
Award date1 Nov 2019
Publication statusUnpublished - 2019

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