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Journal Articles Attention, Perception, and Psychophysics Year : 2019

Constraints on learning disjunctive, unidimensional auditory and phonetic categories

Abstract

Phonetic categories must be learned, but the processes that allow that learning to unfold are still under debate. The current study investigates constraints on the structure of categories that can be learned and whether these constraints are speech-specific. Category structure constraints are a key difference between theories of category learning, which can roughly be divided into instance-based learning (i.e., exemplar only) and abstractionist learning (i.e., at least partly rule-based or prototype-based) theories. Abstractionist theories can relatively easily accommodate constraints on the structure of categories that can be learned, whereas instance-based theories cannot easily include such constraints. The current study included three groups to investigate these possible constraints as well as their speech specificity English speakers learning German speech categories, German speakers learning German speech categories, and English speakers learning musical instrument categories, with each group including participants who learned different sets of categories. Both speech groups had greater difficulty learning disjunctive categories (ones that require an or statement) than nondisjunctive categories, which suggests that instance-based learning alone is insufficient to explain the learning of the participants learning phonetic categories. This fact was true for both novices (English speakers) and experts (German speakers), which implies that expertise with the materials used cannot explain the patterns observed. However, the same was not true for the musical instrument categories, suggesting a degree of domain-specificity in these constraints that cannot be explained through recourse to expertise alone.

Dates and versions

hal-02303537 , version 1 (02-10-2019)

Identifiers

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Christopher C. Heffner, William J. Idsardi, Rochelle S. Newman. Constraints on learning disjunctive, unidimensional auditory and phonetic categories. Attention, Perception, and Psychophysics, 2019, 81 (4), pp.958-980. ⟨10.3758/s13414-019-01683-x⟩. ⟨hal-02303537⟩
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