Does complexity matter? Meta-analysis of learner performance in artificial grammar tasks
Three experiments investigated the contribution of phonological short-term memory (STM) to grammar learning by manipulating rehearsal during study of an auditory artificial grammar made up from a vocabulary of spoken Mandarin syllables. Experiment 1 showed that concurrent, irrelevant articulation impaired grammar learning compared with a nonverbal control task. Experiment 2 replicated and extended this finding, showing that repeating the grammatical strings at study improved grammar learning compared with suppressing rehearsal or remaining silent during learning. Experiment 3 found no effects of rehearsal on grammar learning once participants had learned the component syllables. The findings suggest that phonological STM aids artificial grammar learning via effects on vocabulary learning.