The Role of Lexical Status and Individual Differences for Perceptual Learning in Younger and Older Adults Purpose This study examined whether older adults remain perceptually flexible when presented with ambiguities in speech in the absence of lexically disambiguating information. We expected older adults to show less perceptual learning when top-down information was not available. We also investigated whether individual differences in executive function predicted perceptual learning ... Research Article
Newly Published
Research Article  |   July 12, 2018
The Role of Lexical Status and Individual Differences for Perceptual Learning in Younger and Older Adults
 
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Sarah Colby
    School of Communication Sciences & Disorders, McGill University, Montréal, Québec, Canada
  • Meghan Clayards
    School of Communication Sciences & Disorders, McGill University, Montréal, Québec, Canada
    Department of Linguistics, McGill University, Montréal, Québec, Canada
  • Shari Baum
    School of Communication Sciences & Disorders, McGill University, Montréal, Québec, Canada
  • Disclosure: The authors have declared that no competing interests existed at the time of publication.
    Disclosure: The authors have declared that no competing interests existed at the time of publication. ×
  • Correspondence to Sarah Colby: sarah.colby@mail.mcgill.ca
  • Editor-in-Chief: Julie Liss
    Editor-in-Chief: Julie Liss×
  • Editor: Bharath Chandrasekaran
    Editor: Bharath Chandrasekaran×
Article Information
Special Populations / Older Adults & Aging / Attention, Memory & Executive Functions / Newly Published / Research Article
Research Article   |   July 12, 2018
The Role of Lexical Status and Individual Differences for Perceptual Learning in Younger and Older Adults
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, Newly Published. doi:10.1044/2018_JSLHR-S-17-0392
History: Received October 18, 2017 , Revised December 13, 2017 , Accepted March 22, 2018
 
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, Newly Published. doi:10.1044/2018_JSLHR-S-17-0392
History: Received October 18, 2017; Revised December 13, 2017; Accepted March 22, 2018

Purpose This study examined whether older adults remain perceptually flexible when presented with ambiguities in speech in the absence of lexically disambiguating information. We expected older adults to show less perceptual learning when top-down information was not available. We also investigated whether individual differences in executive function predicted perceptual learning in older and younger adults.

Method Younger (n = 31) and older adults (n = 27) completed 2 perceptual learning tasks composed of a pretest, exposure, and posttest phase. Both learning tasks exposed participants to clear and ambiguous speech tokens, but crucially, the lexically guided learning task provided disambiguating lexical information whereas the distributional learning task did not. Participants also performed several cognitive tasks to investigate individual differences in working memory, vocabulary, and attention-switching control.

Results We found that perceptual learning is maintained in older adults, but that learning may be stronger in contexts where top-down information is available. Receptive vocabulary scores predicted learning across both age groups and in both learning tasks.

Conclusions Implicit learning is maintained with age across different learning conditions but remains stronger when lexically biasing information is available. We find that receptive vocabulary is relevant for learning in both types of learning tasks, suggesting the importance of vocabulary knowledge for adapting to ambiguities in speech.

Acknowledgments
This work was supported by Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Grant 435-2016-0747 to M. Clayards and a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada discovery grant to S. Baum. The authors would like to thank Victoria Poulton for her help in collecting data.
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