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Experiment Author: Adapted from STEP and used with permission of Brian MacWhinney
This experiment presents an analogy for the learning of morphology. Participants are given two-letter pairs and two-digit pairs, and told to associate the two together. They are then given test instances which may or may not actually be the sets they were given, but will contain the same digits (which predict what letters will be appropriate).
In this experiment participants learn associations between two-digit numbers as stimuli and two-letter bigrams as responses. In the practice phase, the word "STUDY" is printed followed by the successive presentation of number-letter pairs. Each pair is presented for three seconds. Each time there is a number pair, type the response associated with the stimulus. For example, if the number stimulus is "68" you should type the response "XF". Sixteen stimulus-response pairs are presented during each study phase.
Palermo, D.S., & Eberhart, L. (1968). On the learning of morphological rules: An experimental analogy. Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior, 7, 337-344.
Cited Experiment Abstract
Three experiments were conducted using modifications of a paradigm used by Esper (1925). Using the study-test procedure, Ss learned 16 paired associates in which the stimuli were 2-digit numbers and the responses were 2-letter pairs. Each single digit was associated with a letter to form a four-by-four matrix of 2-digit 2-letter stimulus-response pairs. Sixteen college Ss were presented 12 of the 16 pairs (Exp. I); 12 of the 16 pairs plus 4 irregular pairs (Exp. II); or 12 of the 16 pairs plus 2 irregular pairs (Exp. III), and were tested with the 16 stimuli in all cases. The irregular pairs were presented 3 times as often (Exp. III) as the regular pairs.
It was observed that the omitted pairs were learned quickly after the regularities of the presented pairs were learned; the irregular pairs were learned more rapidly than the regular pairs, and errors on the irregular pairs took the form of overgeneralization of the regular responses. It was assumed that the experimental conditions were analogous to the learning of verb inflection by children and theresults were remarkably similar to the behavior of young children acquiring the morphological rules of verb inflection.
Works Cited by the Experiment
Berko, Jean. The child's learning of English morphology. Word, 1958, 14, 150-177.
Ervin, S.M. Imitation and structural change and children's language. In E.G. Lenneberg (Ed), New directions in the study of language. Cambridge, MIT Press, 1964.
Esper, E.A. A technique for the experimental investigation of associative interference in artificial linguistic material. Language Monogr., 1925, No. 1.
Slobin, D.I. The acquisition of Russian as a natve language. In F. Smith and G.A. Miller (Eds.), The genesis of language: A psycholinguistic approach. Cambridge, MIT Press, 1966.
Underwood, B.J. and Schulz, R.W. Meaninglessness and verbal learning. Chicago: Lippincott, 1960.