The resilience of verbal sequence learning: Evidence from the Hebb repetition effect

Marie-Eve St. Louis, R.W. Hughes, Jean Saint-Aubin, Sebastien Tremblay

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In a single large-scale study, we demonstrate that verbal sequence learning as studied using the classic Hebb repetition effect (Hebb, 1961)—the improvement in the serial recall of a repeating sequence compared to non-repeated sequences—is resilient to both wide and irregular spacing between sequence repetitions. Learning of a repeated sequence of letters was evident to a comparable degree with three, five, and eight intervening non-repeated sequences and regardless of whether the spacing between repetitions was regular or irregular. Importantly, this resilience of verbal sequence learning was observed despite the fact that there was complete item-set overlap between repeated and non-repeated sequences. The findings are consistent with the conceptualization of the Hebb repetition effect as a laboratory analogue of natural phonological word-form learning. The results also have implications for the two leading models of Hebb sequence learning: Whereas the results are incompatible with the model of Page and Norris (2009), they can be handled readily by the model of Burgess and Hitch (2006) through the abandonment of its assumption of long-term (across-trial level) decay.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)17-25
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition
Issue number1
Early online date23 Apr 2018
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2019

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