Concurrent learning of adjacent and nonadjacent dependencies in visuo-spatial and visuo-verbal sequences

Joanne A. Deocampo, Tricia Z. King, Christopher M. Conway

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Both adjacent and non-adjacent dependencies (AD and NAD) are present in natural language and other domains, yet the learning of non-adjacent sequential dependencies generally only occurs under favorable circumstances. It is currently unknown to what extent adults can learn AD and NAD, presented concurrently in spatial and verbal sequences during a single session, and whether a second session improves performance. In addition, the relationship between AD and NAD learning and other theoretically related cognitive and language processes has not yet been fully established. In this study, participants reproduced two types of sequences generated from an artificial grammar: visuo-spatial sequences with stimuli presented in four spatial locations, and visuo-verbal sequences with printed syllables. Participants were tested for incidental learning by reproducing novel sequences, half consistent with the grammar and half containing violations of either AD or NAD. The procedure was repeated on a second day. Results showed that both AD and NAD were learned in both visuo-spatial and visuo-verbal tasks, although AD learning was better than NAD and learning of NAD decreased over time. Furthermore, NAD learning for both spatial and verbal tasks was positively correlated with a language measure, whereas AD learning for both spatial and verbal tasks was negatively associated with working memory measures in the opposite domain. These results demonstrate that adults can learn both AD and NAD within a single session, but NAD learning is more easily disrupted than AD and both types of learning are sub-served by partially distinct cognitive processes. These findings increase our understanding of the processes governing the learning of AD and NAD in verbal and spatial domains.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1107
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Issue numberMAY
StatePublished - 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Adjacent dependencies
  • Artificial grammar learning
  • Non-adjacent dependencies
  • Sequential learning
  • Visuo-spatial versus verbal learning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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