The effects of concurrent verbal and visual tasks on category learning.
Journal of experimental psychology. Learning, memory, and cognition
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Current theories of category learning posit separate verbal and nonverbal learning systems. Past research suggests that the verbal system relies on verbal working memory and executive functioning and learns rule-defined categories; the nonverbal system does not rely on verbal working memory and learns non-rule-defined categories (E. M. Waldron & F. G. Ashby, 2001; D. Zeithamova & W. T. Maddox, 2006). However, relatively little research has explored the importance of visual working memory or visual processing for either system. The authors investigated the role of working memory (Experiment 1a and 1b), visual processing (Experiment 2), and executive functioning for each system, using a concurrent task methodology. It was found that visual tasks with high executive functioning demands and verbal tasks with high or low executive demands disrupted rule-defined learning, whereas any visual task, regardless of executive functioning demand, disrupted non-rule-defined learning. Taken together, these results confirm the importance of verbal working memory and executive functioning for the verbal system and provide new evidence for the importance of visual processing for the nonverbal system. These results help to clarify understanding of the nonverbal system and have implications for multiple systems theories of category learning (F. G. Ashby, L. A. Alfonso-Reese, A. U. Turken, & E. M. Waldron, 1998).