The roles of item repetition and position in infant sequence learning


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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