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Cogn Sci. 2017 Apr;41 Suppl 4:706-747. doi: 10.1111/cogs.12401. Epub 2016 Jul 29.

Learning During Processing: Word Learning Doesn't Wait for Word Recognition to Finish.

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Department of Psychology, The Ohio State University.
Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders and DeLTA Center, University of Iowa.


Previous research on associative learning has uncovered detailed aspects of the process, including what types of things are learned, how they are learned, and where in the brain such learning occurs. However, perceptual processes, such as stimulus recognition and identification, take time to unfold. Previous studies of learning have not addressed when, during the course of these dynamic recognition processes, learned representations are formed and updated. If learned representations are formed and updated while recognition is ongoing, the result of learning may incorporate spurious, partial information. For example, during word recognition, words take time to be identified, and competing words are often active in parallel. If learning proceeds before this competition resolves, representations may be influenced by the preliminary activations present at the time of learning. In three experiments using word learning as a model domain, we provide evidence that learning reflects the ongoing dynamics of auditory and visual processing during a learning event. These results show that learning can occur before stimulus recognition processes are complete; learning does not wait for ongoing perceptual processing to complete.


Associative learning; Lexical access; Processing dynamics; Temporal processes; Word learning

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