A case of syntactical learning and judgment: How conscious and how abstract?

Don E. Dulany, Richard A. Carlson, Gerald I. Dewey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

309 Scopus citations


Examined 2 possible bases for grammatical judgments following syntactical learning: unconscious representations of a formal grammar, as in A. S. Reber's (see record 1976-21811-001) hypothesis of implicit learning, and conscious rules within information grammars. 50 undergraduates inspected strings generated by a finite-state grammar, viewed either one at a time or all at a time, with implicit or explicit learning instructions. 15 undergraduates served as controls. In a transfer test, Ss and controls judged the grammaticality of grammatical and nongrammatical strings and reported the bases for their judgments. Concurrent with previous results, Ss correctly classified a significant number of novel strings, indicating the operation of grammatical abstraction. However, reported rules predicted those grammatical judgments without significant residual. Ss acquired correlated grammars--personal sets of conscious rules, each of limited scope and many of imperfect validity. The rules embodied abstractions, consciously represented novelty that could account for abstraction embodied in judgments. It is argued that a better explanation of these results credits grammatical judgments to conscious rules within informal grammars rather than to unconscious representations of a formal grammar. (25 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)541-555
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: General
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1984

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Psychology(all)
  • Developmental Neuroscience


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