Individual Variability in Strategies and Learning Outcomes in Auditory Category Learning
Learning the sounds of a new language depends on the ability to learn novel auditory categories. Multidimensional categories, whether speech or nonspeech, can be learned through feedback and different category structures are proposed to recruit separate cognitive and neural mechanisms. There is substantial individual variability in learning; however, it is rare to compare learning of different categories in the same individuals. Understanding the sources of variability has theoretical implications for category learning. In this study, we trained the same participants on three types of multidimensional auditory categories. Participants learned nonspeech rule-based, nonspeech information-integration, and Mandarin speech categories. Learning of all category types was related across individuals and differences in working memory similarly supported learning across tasks. There was substantial variability in learning outcomes and strategies used to learn the categories. There are multiple paths to successful learning and appreciation of individual variability is essential to understanding the mechanisms of learning.