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Front Psychol. 2016 Feb 3;7:57. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2016.00057. eCollection 2016.

Fluency Expresses Implicit Knowledge of Tonal Symmetry.

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School of Psychology and Cognitive Science, East China Normal University Shanghai, China.
Department of Psychology, Zhejiang Normal University Jinhua, China.
School of Education and Psychology, University of Jinan Jinan, China.
Shanghai Key Laboratory of Magnetic Resonance, School of Psychology and Cognitive Science, East China Normal UniversityShanghai, China; Key Laboratory of Brain Functional Genomics, Ministry of Education, Shanghai Key Laboratory of Brain Functional Genomics, East China Normal UniversityShanghai, China.
School of Psychology, Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science, University of Sussex Brighton, UK.


The purposes of the present study were twofold. First, we sought to establish whether tonal symmetry produces processing fluency. Second, we sought to explore whether symmetry and chunk strength express themselves differently in fluency, as an indication of different mechanisms being involved for sub- and supra-finite state processing. Across two experiments, participants were asked to listen to and memorize artificial poetry showing a mirror symmetry (an inversion, i.e., a type of cross serial dependency); after this training phase, people completed a four-choice RT task in which they were presented with new artificial poetry. Participants were required to identify the stimulus displayed. We found that symmetry sped up responding to the second half of strings, indicating a fluency effect. Furthermore, there was a dissociation between fluency effects arising from symmetry vs. chunk strength, with stronger fluency effects for symmetry rather than chunks in the second half of strings. Taken together, we conjecture a divide between finite state and supra-finite state mechanisms in learning grammatical sequences.


chunks; cross serial dependency; fluency; implicit learning; symmetry

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