Is the Hebb repetition task a reliable measure of individual differences in sequence learning?
MetadataShow full item record
Bogaerts, L., Siegelman, N., Ben-Porat, T., & Frost, R. (2018). Is the Hebb repetition task a reliable measure of individual differences in sequence learning? Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 71(4), 892–905. Doi: 10.1080/17470218.2017.1307432
The Hebb repetition task, an operationalization of long-term sequence learning through repetition, is the focus of renewed interest, as it is taken to provide a laboratory analogue for naturalistic vocabulary acquisition. Indeed, recent studies have consistently related performance in the Hebb repetition task with a range of linguistic (dis)abilities. However, in spite of the growing interest in the Hebb repetition effect as a theoretical construct, no previous research has ever tested whether the task used to assess Hebb learning offers a stable and reliable measure of individual performance in sequence learning. Since reliability is a necessary condition to predictive validity, in the present work we tested whether individual ability in visual verbal Hebb repetition learning displays basic test-retest reliability. In a first experiment Hebrew-English bilinguals performed two verbal Hebb tasks, one with English and one with Hebrew consonant letters. They were retested on the same Hebb tasks after a period of about six months. Overall serial recall performance proved to be a stable and reliable capacity of an individual. By contrast, the test-retest reliability of individual learning performance in our Hebb task was close to zero. A second experiment with French speakers replicated these results and demonstrated that the concurrent learning of two repeated Hebb sequences within the same task minimally improves the reliability scores. Taken together, our results raise concerns regarding the usefulness of at least some current Hebb learning tasks in predicting linguistic (dis)abilities. The theoretical implications are discussed.