Linguistic Priming and Learning Adjacent and Non-Adjacent Dependencies in Serial Reaction Time Tasks


Although syntactic priming is well studied and commonly assumed to involve implicit learning, the mechanisms behind this phenomenon are still under debate. We tested whether implicit learning of adjacent and non-adjacent sequences occurs in a non-linguistic, finger sequence task (Serial Reaction Time task), and if so, whether these implicitly-learned dependencies can cause syntactic priming in the linguistic domain. We followed the logic that exposure to statistical patterns in the SRT task may influence language users’ relative clause (RC) attachment biases, and trained participants on SRT sequences with adjacent or non-adjacent dependencies. Participants then wrote completions to relative clause fragments in a situation where they could opt for adjacent or non-adjacent linguistic structures. Participants successfully learned the adjacent and non-adjacent dependency implicitly during the SRT task, but, strikingly, their RC continuations did not exhibit priming effects. Implications for theories of syntactic priming and its relations to implicit learning are discussed.

Back to Table of Contents