University of Hertfordshire

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Learning nonwords: The Hebb repetition effect as a model of word learning

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Original languageEnglish
Article numberPMEM 1416639
Pages (from-to)852-857
Number of pages6
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jan 2018


Page and Norris [(2008). Is there a common mechanism underlying word-form learning and the Hebb repetition effect? Experimental data and a modelling framework. In A. Thorn & M. P. A. Page (Eds.), Interactions between short-term and long-term memory in the verbal domain; (2009). A model linking immediate serial recall, the Hebb repetition effect and the learning of phonological word forms. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 364(1536), 3737–3753. doi:10.1098/rstb.2009.0173] have suggested that the Hebb [(1961). Distinctive features of learning in the higher animal. In J. F. Delafresnaye (Ed.), Brain mechanisms and learning (pp. 37–46). Oxford: Blackwell] repetition paradigm can be considered as a laboratory analogue of word learning. In Hebb learning experiments, the lists of items to be learned are presented as discrete sequences. In contrast, novel words are, by definition, always heard as a single coarticulated whole. Might this undermine the claim that Hebb learning can shed light on word learning? Here we report an experiment comparing learning sequences of isolated syllables with learning the same sequences spoken as a single coarticulated nonword. The pattern of learning was similar in the two cases, suggesting that the Hebb repetition paradigm can indeed provide valuable insights into the way novel word forms are learned.


© 2018 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License CC BY 4.0 (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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