Psychonomic Bulletin & Review

, Volume 21, Issue 2, pp 488–495 | Cite as

Dual-learning systems during speech category learning

  • Bharath Chandrasekaran
  • Han-Gyol Yi
  • W. Todd Maddox
Brief Report


Dual-system models of visual category learning posit the existence of an explicit, hypothesis-testing reflective system, as well as an implicit, procedural-based reflexive system. The reflective and reflexive learning systems are competitive and neurally dissociable. Relatively little is known about the role of these domain-general learning systems in speech category learning. Given the multidimensional, redundant, and variable nature of acoustic cues in speech categories, our working hypothesis is that speech categories are learned reflexively. To this end, we examined the relative contribution of these learning systems to speech learning in adults. Native English speakers learned to categorize Mandarin tone categories over 480 trials. The training protocol involved trial-by-trial feedback and multiple talkers. Experiments 1 and 2 examined the effect of manipulating the timing (immediate vs. delayed) and information content (full vs. minimal) of feedback. Dual-system models of visual category learning predict that delayed feedback and providing rich, informational feedback enhance reflective learning, while immediate and minimally informative feedback enhance reflexive learning. Across the two experiments, our results show that feedback manipulations that targeted reflexive learning enhanced category learning success. In Experiment 3, we examined the role of trial-to-trial talker information (mixed vs. blocked presentation) on speech category learning success. We hypothesized that the mixed condition would enhance reflexive learning by not allowing an association between talker-related acoustic cues and speech categories. Our results show that the mixed talker condition led to relatively greater accuracies. Our experiments demonstrate that speech categories are optimally learned by training methods that target the reflexive learning system.


Speech perception Category learning Human memory and learning Perceptual learning 



This research was supported by NIMH grants MH077708 and DA032457 to W.T.M. We thank the Maddox Lab RAs for data collection. Address correspondence to Bharath Chandrasekaran ( or W. Todd Maddox (


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Copyright information

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Bharath Chandrasekaran
    • 1
  • Han-Gyol Yi
    • 1
  • W. Todd Maddox
    • 2
  1. 1.Communication Sciences and DisordersThe University of Texas at AustinAustinUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyThe University of Texas at AustinAustinUSA

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