Anchors Aweigh: The Impact of Overlearning on Entrenchment Effects in Statistical Learning

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Previous research has revealed that when learners encounter multiple artificial languages in succession only the first is learned, unless there are contextual cues correlating with the change in structure or if exposure to the second language is protracted. These experiments provided a fixed amount of exposure irrespective of when learning occurred. Here, the authors presented learners with 2 consecutive artificial languages testing learning after each minute of familiarization. In Experiment 1, learners received fixed input, and the authors replicated the primacy effect. In Experiment 2, learners advanced to the second language immediately following robust learning of the first language (thereby limiting additional exposure past the point of learning). Remarkably, learners tended to acquire and retain both languages, although contextual cues did not boost performance further. Notably, there was no correlation between performance on this task and a flanker task that measured inhibitory control. Overall, the findings suggest that anchoring effects in statistical learning may be because of overlearning. We speculate that learners may reduce their attention to the input once they achieve a low level of estimation uncertainty.

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