The roles of item repetition and position in infant sequence learning

Abstract

We examined how saliency and consistency of distributional information guides infants’ detection, extraction, and generalization of sequential patterns. Experiment 1 examined whether 11- and 14-month-olds could learn a “repetition anywhere” rule (e.g., ABBC, AABC, ABCC). Experiment 2 examined whether 11- and 14-month-olds could generalize a “medial repetition” rule, and Experiment 3 examined whether 11-month-olds could identify an edge-positioned nonadjacent dependency. Infants were habituated to 4-item audiovisual sequences containing repetition- and/or position-based structure and then tested with the “familiar” structure vs. “novel” (random) sequences. Eleven-month-olds failed to learn the repetition rule both when the structure appeared in a variable (Experiment 1) and a medial (Experiment 2) position. Fourteen-month-olds learned repetition rules under both conditions. In Experiment 3, 11-month-olds learned a nonadjacent dependency in sequences identical to those that tested repetition learning in Experiment 2. Our results suggest that 11-month-olds, like adults, are relatively insensitive to patterns in the middle of sequences.


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