Acquisition as a function of varying meaningfulness and the interstimulus interval in paired-associate and serial learning



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Acquisition as reflected by latencies over the first five correct trials was studied in paired-associate and serial learning paradigms in which two independent variables, meaningfulness and interstimulus interval, were counterbalanced among eight groups consisting of 36 male and 36 female subjects. Nine subjects were assigned to one of eight groups m order of appearance with sex evenness a constraint. There were two levels of meaningfulness, high and low, determined on the basis of 48-50 per cent (low) and 98-100 per cent (high) association value nonsense syllables. Nonsense syllables were obtained from Archer's Revised List (1960). The stimuli for the paired-associate task were two digit numbers. The interstimulus intervals were four seconds and eight seconds. Counterbalancing produced two dependent variables, order and period. Instrumentation consisted of a memory drum, voice key and digital timer. Rotation of the memory drum initiated the timer which was stopped by input from the voice key attached to the subject's throat. The timer was mechanically reset by the examiner. Subjects were presented a warm-up task similar to experimental tasks except for list content. The familiarization list was made up of six adjectives, and in the paired-associate task, stimuli consisted of single digits. After the familiarization list, subjects were presented the verbal learning task in two time periods. In period one, subjects received either the high or low meaningful CVC task depending on the order of presentation for a given group. Subjects received an eight second rest period between each trial and a five minute rest between presentation of each task. Analysis was based on a mixed design analysis of variance that included a double latin-square derived algebraically from the model. The present study demonstrated that meaningfulness is not a significant variable influencing searching and retrieval processes in either paired-associate or serial order learning. In paired- associate, interstimulus intervals, order and trials by interstimulus interval interaction were found significant. With reference to serial order learning, the order by interstimulus interval interaction and period were significant. Trials were a significant variable for both paired-associate and serial order learning. In both paired-associate and serial order learning paradigms, subjects were found to take account of the available time for processing data and adopted a set or strategy depending on the time element. Interestingly, not only was the time element a critical factor in paired-associate, but also order was found to affect retrieval rate as reflected m latencies. Irrespective of interstimulus intervals, order was found facilitating when low was learned first and high learned second. A distinctive difference between paired-associate and serial order learning was discussed in terms of the sequential effects of learning high and low. Irrespective of order, but depending on period, retrieval rate was significantly affected in serial order learning. Whatever occurred in period one had a significant effect on processing time in period two regardless of order or meaningfulness. In the case of paired-associate learning, a task of low difficulty apparently provided a set for subjects independent of period except for order two which was constant for both four and eight second interstimulus intervals. It was speculated that subjects employed a set, strategies (decision making process) and/or monitoring processes facilitating search and retrieval. The extent of monitoring a fixed response pool depended in serial order on the available time. When time was extended, subjects scanned the total response pool until the correct response was determined. When time was short, it was as if responses were retrieved on the basis of a more limited response pool and very likely restricted to scanning only the prior response or stimulus trace.



Verbal learning, Paired-association learning