Berkeley ENGLISH 102 - Learning and individual differences (21 pages)

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Learning and individual differences



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Learning and individual differences

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Pages:
21
School:
University of California, Berkeley
Course:
English 102 - Topics in the English Language
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Learning and individual differences Author Manuscript HHS Public Access Gender Differences in Child Word Learning Margarita Kaushanskaya Megan Gross and Milijana Buac Additional article information Abstract In prior work with adults women were found to outperform men on a paired associates word learning task but only when learning phonologically familiar novel words The goal of the present work was to examine whether similar gender differences in word learning would be observed in children In addition to manipulating phonological familiarity referent familiarity was also manipulated Children between the ages of 5 and 7 learned phonologically familiar or phonologically unfamiliar novel words in association with pictures of familiar referents animals or unfamiliar referents aliens Retention was tested via a forced choice recognition measure administered immediately after the learning phase Analyses of retention data revealed stronger phonological and referent familiarity effects in girls than in boys Moreover girls outperformed boys only when learning phonologicallyfamiliar novel words and when learning novel words in association with familiar referents These findings are interpreted to suggest that females are more likely than males to recruit native language phonological and semantic knowledge during novel word learning Keywords word learning gender differences phonology semantics 1 Gender Differences in Child Word Learning The degree to which a novel word conforms to the properties of known words can influence its learnability In general research suggests broad familiarity effects in learning where novel words that are more familiar in form and or meaning are retained better than novel words that are less familiar e g Ellis Beaton 1993 Service Craik 1993 Storkel 2001 However women may be more sensitive to such linguistic familiarity effects than men e g Kaushanskaya Marian Yoo 2011 Although the mechanisms that underlie gender differences in language processing remain controversial one theoretical framework the Declarative Procedural Model attributes gender differences in language acquisition and processing to women s superior declarative memory system Ullman et al 2001 2004 2005 2008 Thus women generally tend to outperform men on tasks that engage long term linguistic knowledge such as verbal fluency and synonym generation tasks e g Herlitz et al 1999 Kimura Harshman 1984 Loonstra Tarlow Sellers 2001 Larsson Lovden Nilsson 2003 Maitland et al 2004 In our recent work we examined gender differences in word learning within the Declarative Procedural framework and demonstrated that women outperformed men on a lexical learning task but only when the novel words were constructed using native language phonological categories Kaushanskaya Marian Yoo 2011 These findings were interpreted to suggest that when learning can be supported by the declarative memory system i e long term linguistic knowledge as is the case for phonologicallyfamiliar novel words women outperform men The goal of the present study was to examine whether similar gender differences in lexical learning can be observed in childhood We contrasted learning of phonologically familiar and phonologicallyunfamiliar novel words by children in order to test phonological familiarity effects in novel word learning across genders We manipulated phonological familiarity categorically by contrasting novel words that were constructed using familiar English phonemes with novel words that incorporated unfamiliar non English phonemes We also contrasted the learning of familiar and unfamiliar referents in order to test semantic familiarity effects in novel word learning across genders We hypothesized that if gender differences in lexical learning are driven by females reliance on long term linguistic knowledge girls would outperform boys only when learning phonologicallyfamiliar and semantically familiar novel words We also hypothesized that girls would show stronger phonological and semantic familiarity effects than boys 1 1 Gender Differences on Linguistic Tasks The presence of gender differences on linguistic tasks is not a uniform finding While many previous studies have suggested that adult women tend to outperform adult men on linguistic processing tasks e g Herlitz et al 1999 Kimura Harshman 1984 Loonstra Tarlow Sellers 2001 Larsson Lovden Nilsson 2003 Maitland et al 2004 a similarly large number of studies documented a lack of differences between adult males and females on language tasks e g Allendorfer et al 2012 Halpern 2000 Jackson Rushton 2006 Kimura 1999 Ryan Kreiner Tree 2008 Similarly in childhood some studies show evidence for lack of gender differences on cognitive tasks that include language measures e g Ardila et al 2011 while others demonstrate consistent and stable gender differences in language development over the first six years of life e g Bornstein Hahn Haynes 2004 Studies that do document gender differences on language measures in childhood generally find that girls outpace boys e g Bornstein Hahn Haynes 2004 Eriksson et al 2012 Gender differences in language acquisition appear very early in life For example girls have been shown to outperform boys as early as 6 months of age on measures related to sensory discrimination of speech sounds e g Pivik Andres Badger 2011 Gender differences in language acquisition are also largely stable with longitudinal studies showing that when girls outperform boys at the first time point these advantages generally sustain with age e g Bornstein Hahn Haynes 2004 Eriksson et al 2012 However patterns of increased gender differences with age e g Bauer Goldfield Reznick 2002 Bouchard et al 2009 Dodd et al 2003 Eriksson et al 2012 and of reduced gender differences with age e g Bornstein Hahn Haynes 2004 have also been reported One account of gender differences in language acquisition the Declarative Procedural model posits that gender differences in language acquisition are rooted in how language is used by males vs females This model proposed by Ullman and colleagues 2001 2004 2005 2008 localizes the female advantage on linguistic tasks to the declarative memory system Unlike procedural memory which underlies acquisition of skill declarative memory underlies explicit learning and retrieval of information and is linked to the ability to store and operate knowledge of facts and events e g Mishkin et al 1984 Squire et al 2004 The declarative memory system has been localized to the


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