BACKGROUND: Certain manipulations, such as testing oneself on newly learned word associations (recall), or the act of repeating a word during training (reproduction), can lead to better learning and retention relative to simply providing more exposure to the word (restudy). Such benefit has been observed for written words. Here, we test how these training manipulations affect learning of words presented aurally, when participants are required to produce these novel phonological forms in a recall task. METHODS: Participants (36 English-speaking adults) learned 27 pseudowords, which were paired with 27 unfamiliar pictures. They were given cued recall practice for 9 of the words, reproduction practice for another set of 9 words, and the remaining 9 words were restudied. Participants were tested on their recognition (3-alternative forced choice) and recall (saying the pseudoword in response to a picture) of these items immediately after training, and a week after training. Our hypotheses were that reproduction and restudy practice would lead to better learning immediately after training, but that cued recall practice would lead to better retention in the long term. RESULTS: In all three conditions, recognition performance was extremely high immediately after training, and a week following training, indicating that participants had acquired associations between the novel pictures and novel words. In addition, recognition and cued recall performance was better immediately after training relative to a week later, confirming that participants forgot some words over time. However, results in the cued recall task did not support our hypotheses. Immediately after training, participants showed an advantage for cued Recall over the Restudy condition, but not over the Reproduce condition. Furthermore, there was no boost for the cued Recall condition over time relative to the other two conditions. Results from a Bayesian analysis also supported this null finding. Nonetheless, we found a clear effect of word length, with shorter words being better learned than longer words, indicating that our method was sufficiently sensitive to detect an impact of condition on learning. CONCLUSIONS: Our primary hypothesis about training conditions conferring specific advantages for production of novel words presented aurally, especially over long intervals, was not supported by this data. Although there may be practical reasons for preferring a particular method for training expressive vocabulary, no difference in effectiveness was detected when presenting words aurally: reproducing, recalling or restudying a word led to the same production accuracy.
Nonword learning, Production effect, Retrieval, Testing effect, Adolescent, Adult, Bayes Theorem, Cues, Female, Humans, Male, Mental Recall, Verbal Learning, Young Adult