Blocking is the most important phenomenon in the history of associative learning theory: For over 40 years, blocking has inspired a whole generation of learning models. Blocking is part of a family of effects that are typically termed “cue competition” effects. Common amongst all cue competition effects is that a cue-outcome relation is poorly learned or poorly expressed because the cue is trained in the presence of an alternative predictor or cause of the outcome. We provide an overview of the cognitive processes involved in cue competition effects in humans and propose a stage framework that brings these processes together. The framework contends that the behavioral display of cue competition is cognitively construed following three stages that include (1) an encoding stage, (2) a retention stage, and (3) a performance stage. We argue that the stage framework supports a comprehensive understanding of cue competition effects.
Kolinsky, R. (2015). How learning to read influences language and cognition. In A. Pollatsek & R. Treiman (Eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Reading. New York: Oxford University Press (pp. 377-393). doi: 10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199324576.013.29.
As illustrated in this handbook, a substantial body of work now exists that examines which factors
and functions affect reading acquisition and reading pro ciency, and which brain areas are involved. The converse relationship—namely, which functions and brain areas are affected by literacy—has received
far less attention, probably because reading acquisition lags speech and vision by several years and because the crucial comparison of illiterate adults with people who learned to read as adults is difficult to undertake. However, this chapter illustrates that learning to read has profound influences on the processing of spoken language and beyond the domain of language, in particular on visual nonlinguistic perception. The chapter discusses research with literate adults in these areas, including the influence of spelling knowledge on speech perception. It also covers research with illiterate adults and on people who first learned to read as adults.
Kolinsky, R., Monteiro-Plantin, R. S., Mengarda, E. J., Grimm-Cabral, L., Scliar-Cabral, L., & Morais, J. (2014). How formal education and literacy impact on the content and structure of semantic categories. Trends in Neuroscience and Education, 3, 106-121. DOI: 10.1016/j.tine.2014.08.001
We examined the hypothesis that formal education and literacy impact the richness and precision of semantic knowledge but not the organization of semantic categories and basic mechanisms of access to them.
In Experiment 1, adults of varying levels of formal education were presented with semantic fluency tests and a superordinate naming task. Experiment 2 examined the impact of reading proficiency on adults of varying degrees of literacy. They were presented with simple semantic, alternating semantic and phonemic fluency tasks, as well as with literacy-related, reasoning and memory tests.
Fluency was analyzed in terms of overall performance, sequential order and speed of responses. Despite lower performance, illiterates and adults with null or limited formal education displayed taxonomic clustering and retrieval by semantic subcategory, as did participants with higher formal education levels. Yet, formal education and literacy slightly speed up access to categories, probably providing useful cues for generating category exemplars.
Kolinsky, R., & Fernandes, T. (2014). A cultural side effect: Learning to read interferes with object identity processing. Frontiers in Psychology. 5: 1224 doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2014.01224
Based on the "neuronal recycling hypothesis" (Dehaene and Cohen, 2007), we examined whether reading acquisition has a cost for the recognition of non-linguistic visual materials. More specifically, we checked whether the ability to discriminate between mirror images, which develops through literacy acquisition, interferes with object identity judgments, and whether interference strength varies as a function of the nature of the non-linguistic material. To these aims we presented illiterate, late literate (who learned to read at adult age), and early literate adults with an orientation-independent, identity-based same-different comparison task in which they had to respond “same” to both physically identical and mirrored or plane-rotated images of pictures of familiar objects (Experiment 1) or of geometric shapes (Experiment 2). Interference from irrelevant orientation variations was stronger with plane rotations than with mirror images, and stronger with geometric shapes than with objects. Illiterates were the only participants almost immune to mirror variations, but only for familiar objects. Thus, the process of unlearning mirror-image generalization, necessary to acquire literacy in the Latin alphabet, has a cost for a basic function of the visual ventral object recognition stream, i.e., identification of familiar objects. This demonstrates that neural recycling is not just an adaptation to multi-use but a process of at least partial exaptation.
Kolinsky, R., Morais, J., Cohen, L., Dehaene-Lambertz, G. & Dehaene, S. (2014). L’influence de l’apprentissage du langage écrit sur les aires du langage/The impact of literacy on the language brain areas. Revue de Neuropsychologie, 6, 173-181.
L’acquisition de la lecture et de l’écriture, ou littératie,constitue vraisemblablement l’un des plus puissants instruments de transformation cognitive et cérébrale que nous acquérons au cours de notre vie. Dans cette revue, nous discutons du fait que, en plus de permettre l’acquisition de nouvelles connaissances (par l’intermédiaire de la lecture) et le stockage extérieur de l’information (via les notes manuscrites, les livres, les ordinateurs, etc.), la littéeatie entraîne trois grands types de changements dans les circuits cérébraux du langage. Nous illustrons le fait que l’apprentissage de l’écrit mène non seulement à une activation des aires du langage parlé par l’écrit, mais aussi à des modifications du traitement du langage parlé lui-même, et ce par deux mécanismes. En effet, la littératie améliore le codage phonologique (dans le planum temporale) et conduit, dans certaines situations d’écoute, à une activation « top-down » des représentations orthographiques (dans le cortex occipito-temporal gauche). En outre, l’acquisition de la littératie s’accompagne de changements anatomiques, notamment dans la connectivité intra- et inter-hémisphérique. Pour finir, nous discutons des implications théoriques et pratiques de ces découvertes pour les neuropsychologues.