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Does formal complexity reflect cognitive complexity? Investigating aspects of the Chomsky Hierarchy in an artificial language learning study.

Öttl B, Jäger G, Kaup B - PLoS ONE (2015)

Bottom Line: A learning effect for both types of dependencies could be observed, but no difference between dependency types emerged.These behavioral findings do not seem to reflect complexity differences as described in the Chomsky Hierarchy.The current findings can be taken as a starting point for further exploring the degree to which the Chomsky Hierarchy reflects cognitive processes.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Department of Psychology, Eberhard Karls University, Tübingen, Germany.

ABSTRACT
This study investigated whether formal complexity, as described by the Chomsky Hierarchy, corresponds to cognitive complexity during language learning. According to the Chomsky Hierarchy, nested dependencies (context-free) are less complex than cross-serial dependencies (mildly context-sensitive). In two artificial grammar learning (AGL) experiments participants were presented with a language containing either nested or cross-serial dependencies. A learning effect for both types of dependencies could be observed, but no difference between dependency types emerged. These behavioral findings do not seem to reflect complexity differences as described in the Chomsky Hierarchy. This study extends previous findings in demonstrating learning effects for nested and cross-serial dependencies with more natural stimulus materials in a classical AGL paradigm after only one hour of exposure. The current findings can be taken as a starting point for further exploring the degree to which the Chomsky Hierarchy reflects cognitive processes.

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Related in: MedlinePlus

Results from Experiment 2.A: Mean percentage correct (SE) for nested and cross-serial dependencies, respectively. B: Mean d’s (SE) for nested and cross-serial dependencies, respectively.
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pone.0123059.g002: Results from Experiment 2.A: Mean percentage correct (SE) for nested and cross-serial dependencies, respectively. B: Mean d’s (SE) for nested and cross-serial dependencies, respectively.

Mentions: Fig 2 presents the overall performance for each group in percentage correct along with the corresponding d’. Results showed that participants performed significantly above chance for both types of dependencies (nested: t(19) = 3.65, p <.01, d = 0.82; cross-serial: t(19) = 4.33, p <.001, d = 0.97). Thus, as in Experiment 1, a learning effect was observed for both languages. Similar to Experiment 1, no differences in performance between dependency types was observed (t(38) = -0.56; p = .58) leading to the conclusion that both dependencies were learned equally well.


Does formal complexity reflect cognitive complexity? Investigating aspects of the Chomsky Hierarchy in an artificial language learning study.

Öttl B, Jäger G, Kaup B - PLoS ONE (2015)

Results from Experiment 2.A: Mean percentage correct (SE) for nested and cross-serial dependencies, respectively. B: Mean d’s (SE) for nested and cross-serial dependencies, respectively.
© Copyright Policy
Related In: Results  -  Collection

License
Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC4401728&req=5

pone.0123059.g002: Results from Experiment 2.A: Mean percentage correct (SE) for nested and cross-serial dependencies, respectively. B: Mean d’s (SE) for nested and cross-serial dependencies, respectively.
Mentions: Fig 2 presents the overall performance for each group in percentage correct along with the corresponding d’. Results showed that participants performed significantly above chance for both types of dependencies (nested: t(19) = 3.65, p <.01, d = 0.82; cross-serial: t(19) = 4.33, p <.001, d = 0.97). Thus, as in Experiment 1, a learning effect was observed for both languages. Similar to Experiment 1, no differences in performance between dependency types was observed (t(38) = -0.56; p = .58) leading to the conclusion that both dependencies were learned equally well.

Bottom Line: A learning effect for both types of dependencies could be observed, but no difference between dependency types emerged.These behavioral findings do not seem to reflect complexity differences as described in the Chomsky Hierarchy.The current findings can be taken as a starting point for further exploring the degree to which the Chomsky Hierarchy reflects cognitive processes.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Department of Psychology, Eberhard Karls University, Tübingen, Germany.

ABSTRACT
This study investigated whether formal complexity, as described by the Chomsky Hierarchy, corresponds to cognitive complexity during language learning. According to the Chomsky Hierarchy, nested dependencies (context-free) are less complex than cross-serial dependencies (mildly context-sensitive). In two artificial grammar learning (AGL) experiments participants were presented with a language containing either nested or cross-serial dependencies. A learning effect for both types of dependencies could be observed, but no difference between dependency types emerged. These behavioral findings do not seem to reflect complexity differences as described in the Chomsky Hierarchy. This study extends previous findings in demonstrating learning effects for nested and cross-serial dependencies with more natural stimulus materials in a classical AGL paradigm after only one hour of exposure. The current findings can be taken as a starting point for further exploring the degree to which the Chomsky Hierarchy reflects cognitive processes.

Show MeSH
Related in: MedlinePlus