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Abstraction Processes in Artificial Grammar Learning

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Four experiments explored the extent to which abstract knowledge may underlie subjects' performance when asked to judge the grammaticality of letter strings generated from an artificial grammar. In Experiments 1 and 2 subjects studied grammatical strings instantiated with one set of letters and were then tested on grammatical and ungrammatical strings formed either from the same or a changedletter-set.Evenwith a change ofletter-set, subjects were found to be sensitive to a variety of violations of the grammar. In Experiments 3 and 4, the critical manipulation involved the way in which the training strings were studied: an incidental learning procedure was used for some subjects, and others engaged in an explicit code-breaking task to try to learn the rules of the grammar. When strings were generated from a biconditional (Experiment 4) but not from a standard finite-state grammar (Experiment 3), grammaticality judgements for test strings were independent of their surface similarity to specific studied strings. Overall, the results suggest that transfer in this simple memory task is mediated at least to some extent by abstract knowledge.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: February 1, 1997


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