The Hebb repetition effect as a laboratory analogue of novel word learning
The present study tests the hypothesis that a common ordering mechanism underlies both short-term serial recall of verbal materials and the acquisition of novel long-term lexical representations, using the Hebb repetition effect. In the first experiment, participants recalled visually presented nonsense syllables following a typical Hebb effect learning protocol. Replicating the Hebb repetition effect, we observed improved recall for repeated sequences of syllables. In the second experiment, the same participants performed an auditory lexical decision task, which included nonwords that were constructed from the syllables used in the first experiment. We observed inhibited rejection of nonwords that were composed of the repeated Hebb sequences, compared to nonwords that were built from nonrepeated filler sequences. This suggests that a long-term phonological lexical representation developed during Hebb learning. Accordingly, the relation between immediate serial recall and word learning is made explicit by arguing that the Hebb repetition effect is a laboratory analogue of naturalistic vocabulary acquisition.