Modality Specific Interruption in Implicit Statistical Learning
Dexheimer, Matthew Scott
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Implicit statistical learning (ISL) is a type of unconscious learning that occurs when an individual is exposed to sequences of stimuli (usually auditory or visual) which follow a pattern. These patterns usually follow an artificial grammar (AG), which is a simple grammar which does not belong to any natural language. Currently there is a debate between researchers about the method in which ISL occurs. One camp argues that ISL is a modality (such as auditory and visual) general, and another argues that modality specific phenomenon. The modality general camp argues that the mind memorizes statistical occurrences in the sequences and abstracts rules based on these occurrences and thus the learning can be transferred between modalities. The modality specific camp argues that the ISL occurs within modalities and thus should not be transferred between modalities. The embodied cognition approach to ISL argues that when a stimuli is observed, the area of the brain required to repeat the action is active, thus modality specific. The current study investigates whether ISL abstracts rules or if it is modality specific by attempting to selectively interfere with the recall of the learning within one modality but not another. Participants were shown an AG using audio and visual stimuli. During the testing phase, participants hummed, made dental sounds, or stomped their feet. Participants were shown a series of either audio or visual sequences and were asked to classify them as grammatical or ungrammatical. The difference between the audio and visual scores for the humming group but not the dental or stomp groups was significant. The results indicate that it is possible to selectively interfere with one modality and not another. This experiment supports the hypothesis that ISL is modality specific and contradicts the theory that ISL is modality general.