Toward a dual-learning systems model of speech category learning

Frontiers in Psychology 5:88645 (2014)
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Abstract

More than two decades of work in vision posits the existence of dual-learning systems of category learning. The reflective system uses working memory to develop and test rules for classifying in an explicit fashion, while the reflexive system operates by implicitly associating perception with actions that lead to reinforcement. Dual-learning systems models hypothesize that in learning natural categories, learners initially use the reflective system and, with practice, transfer control to the reflexive system. The role of reflective and reflexive systems in auditory category learning and more specifically in speech category learning has not been systematically examined. In this article, we describe a neurobiologically constrained dual-learning systems theoretical framework that is currently being developed in speech category learning and review recent applications of this framework. Using behavioral and computational modeling approaches, we provide evidence that speech category learning is predominantly mediated by the reflexive learning system. In one application, we explore the effects of normal aging on non-speech and speech category learning. Prominently, we find a large age-related deficit in speech learning. The computational modeling suggests that older adults are less likely to transition from simple, reflective, unidimensional rules to more complex, reflexive, multi-dimensional rules. In a second application, we summarize a recent study examining auditory category learning in individuals with elevated depressive symptoms. We find a deficit in reflective-optimal and an enhancement in reflexive-optimal auditory category learning. Interestingly, individuals with elevated depressive symptoms also show an advantage in learning speech categories. We end with a brief summary and description of a number of future directions.

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