From domain-generality to domain-sensitivity: 4-Month-olds learn an abstract repetition rule in music that 7-month-olds do not

Colin Dawson, Lou Ann Gerken

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

41 Scopus citations


Learning must be constrained for it to lead to productive generalizations. Although biology is undoubtedly an important source of constraints, prior experience may be another, leading learners to represent input in ways that are more conducive to some generalizations than others, and/or to up- and down-weight features when entertaining generalizations. In two experiments, 4-month-old and 7-month-old infants were familiarized with sequences of musical chords or tones adhering either to an AAB pattern or an ABA pattern. In both cases, the 4-month-olds learned the generalization, but the 7-month-olds did not. The success of the 4-month-olds appears to contradict an account that this type of pattern learning is the provenance of a language-specific rule-learning module. It is not yet clear what drives the age-related change, but plausible candidates include differential experience with language and music, as well as interactions between general cognitive development and stimulus complexity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)378-382
Number of pages5
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 1 2009



  • Artificial grammar learning
  • Infant cognition
  • Language learning
  • Modularity
  • Music cognition
  • Rule-learning
  • Statistical learning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Cognitive Neuroscience

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