Statistical Learning of a Morse Code Language is Improved by Bilingualism and Inhibitory Ability

Abstract

We examine the influence of bilingualism and inhibitory control on the ability to learn a novel language. Using a statistical learning paradigm, participants learned transitional probabilities in two novel languages based on the International Morse Code. First, participants listened to a low-interference language to test word segmentation skill. Next, participants listened to a high-interference language, in which a colliding cue to word boundaries in the form of compressed pauses between words conflicted with the language’s transitional probabilities. Results suggest that high proficiency in a second language can improve word learning in a novel language, but when interference during learning is high, language experience no longer confers a benefit and strong inhibitory control ability is necessary for learning to occur.


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