University of Geneva , Genève
Cognitive determinants of learning in the auditory and the visual domains
Superior performance can be induced through practice in a variety of training domains. However, a major limitation for intervention purposes – be they educational or clinical – is that the resulting behavioural enhancements rarely extend beyond the practiced task, thus limiting the impact of interventions to real-life contexts. In the series of experiments presented here, we explore learning and generalization in both the visual and the auditory domain. In one study, we describe a novel paradigm aimed at probing the extraction and transfer of a given structure across tasks. Furthermore, we take an individual differences approach to determine the resources that may specifically contribute to this type of structure learning. Our results identify a subset of our participants that are able to exploit the common structure across tasks and attain exceptionally high performance levels. Among other factors, structure learning abilities correlate positively with two main factors – attentional control and years of education. In a second study, we explore learning and generalization of audio-visual associations, again uncovering a link with attentional control. While we replicate and extend the results of many studies indicating a link between executive functions and learning, the contribution of years of education suggests that prior experience with extracting patterns might play an important role.