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Feedback has been shown to be effective in shifting attention across perceptual cues to a phonological contrast in speech perception (Francis, Baldwin & Nusbaum, 2000). However, the learning mechanisms behind this process remain obscure. We compare the predictions of supervised error-driven learning (Rescorla & Wagner, 1972) and reinforcement learning (Sutton & Barto, 1998) using computational simulations. Supervised learning predicts downweighting of an informative cue when the learner receives evidence that it is no longer informative. In contrast, reinforcement learning suggests that a reduction in cue weight requires positive evidence for the informativeness of an alternative cue. Experimental evidence supports the latter prediction, implicating reinforcement learning as the mechanism behind the effect of feedback on cue weighting in speech perception. Native English listeners were exposed to either bimodal or unimodal VOT distributions spanning the unaspirated/aspirated boundary (bear/pear). VOT is the primary cue to initial stop voicing in English. However, lexical feedback in training indicated that VOT was no longer predictive of voicing. Reduction in the weight of VOT was observed only when participants could use an alternative cue, F0, to predict voicing. Frequency distributions had no effect on learning. Overall, the results suggest that attention shifting in learning the phonetic cues to phonological categories is accomplished using simple reinforcement learning principles that also guide the choice of actions in other domains.
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Process in which individuals take the initiative, in diagnosing their learning needs, formulating learning goals, identifying resources for learning, choosing and implementing learning strategies and evaluating learning outcomes (Knowles, 1975)
Change in learning in one situation due to prior learning in another situation. The transfer can be positive (with second learning improved by first) or negative (where the reverse holds).
A principle that learning is facilitated when the learner receives immediate evaluation of learning performance. The concept also hypothesizes that learning is facilitated when the learner is promptly informed whether a response is correct, and, if incorrect, of the direction of error.
Learning that is manifested in the ability to respond differentially to various stimuli.
Learning to make a series of responses in exact order.