Linking memory and language: insights from novel word learning and dyslexia

Bogaerts, L. 1 , Szmalec, A. 2 , Page, M. P. . 3 & Duyck, W. 1

1 Department of Experimental Psychology, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium
2 Psychological Science Research Institute, Université Catholique de Louvain, Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium
3 Department of Psychology, University of Hertfordshire, Hatfield, UK

This talk will address the question of how serial-order memory is involved in language acquisition.
In the first part we argue that the learning seen in the Hebb repetition task, a task that operationalizes the transfer of sequential information from short-term to long-term memory, draws on the same mechanism as the one underlying learning of novel word forms. Experimental evidence for this hypothesis, showing that what is learned during verbal Hebb repetition constitutes a representation in the lexicon similar to that of a newly learned word (Szmalec, Page, & Duyck, 2012, JML), will be presented.
Secondly, we will discuss studies on short-term memory (Bogaerts et al., 2014, Memory; Hachmann et al., 2014, Ann Dyslexia) and long-term sequence learning (Bogaerts et al., submitted; Szmalec, Loncke, Page, & Duyck, 2011, JEP:LMC) in dyslexic adults. Our results demonstrate that dyslexia is characterized by a selective impairment of short-term memory for order, but not item information. Furthermore, people with dyslexia are fundamentally impaired in sequential learning and show less robust lexicalization of the newly acquired word forms. Dyslexic and control participants do, however, show comparable consolidation, suggesting that the representations that are eventually learned seem to stand the test of time rather well.