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Frontiers in Psychology

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Language Acquisition, Memory, Speech-Sound Learning


This paper investigates relationships between procedural-memory, declarative-memory, and working-memory skills and adult native English speakers’ novel sound-category learning. Participants completed a sound-categorization task that required integrating two dimensions: one native (vowel quality), one non-native (pitch). Similar information-integration category structures in the visual and auditory domains have been shown to be best learned implicitly (e.g., Maddox et al., 2006). Thus, we predicted that individuals with greater procedural-memory capacity would better learn sound categories, because procedural memory appears to support implicit learning of new information and integration of dimensions. Seventy undergraduates were tested across two experiments. Procedural memory was assessed using a linguistic adaptation of the serial-reaction-time task (Misyak et al., 2010a,b). Declarative memory was assessed using the logical-memory subtest of the Wechsler Memory Scale-4th edition (WMS-IV; Wechsler, 2009). Working memory was assessed using an auditory version of the reading-span task (Kane et al., 2004). Experiment 1 revealed contributions of only declarative memory to dimensional integration, which might indicate not enough time or motivation to shift over to a procedural/integrative strategy. Experiment 2 gave twice the speech-sound training, distributed over 2 days, and also attempted to train at the category boundary. As predicted, effects of declarative memory were removed and effects of procedural memory emerged, but, unexpectedly, new effects of working memory surfaced. The results may be compatible with a multiple-systems account in which declarative and working memory facilitate transfer of control to the procedural system.


Copyright © 2018 Quam, Wang, Maddox, Golisch and Lotto. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.



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