DICHOTIC LISTENING IN THE STUDY OF SEMANTIC AND SYNTACTIC DEVELOPMENT
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Two experiments were carried out with the purpose of gaining insight into the strategies used by children in processing verbal material. In Experiment 1, first-, third- and fourth-grade children were presented with word pairs both sequentially and simultaneously, via the dichotic listening technique. Some of these word pairs were semantically related, either syntagmatically (sour-lemon), or paradigmatically (hot-cold) and some were semantically unrelated. Recognition rate was higher for sequentially presented than for simultaneously presented pairs for all age groups; semantically related pairs had a higher recognition rate than unrelated pairs, and, of the semantically related pairs, those that were syntagmatically related were recognized significantly more often than those that were paradigmatically related. Syntagmatic relation, therefore, appears to dominate lexical organization for these children.;In Experiment 2, semantically unrelated word pairs were presented simultaneously to Grade 4 children and to adults, using the dichotic listening technique. This experiment investigated whether, in the absence of semantic relationship, subjects would impose a structure on word pairs. Nouns, verbs, and adjectives were used, and were paired so that they made same or different parts of speech pairs. Recognition rate and order in which subjects reported the pairs were recorded. Adults reported word pairs in syntactic order significantly more often than in non-syntactic order. Grade 4 as a group did not, but those who did, tended to have a higher recognition rate. It is suggested that imposing syntactic structure, like paradigmatic organization, involves thinking in a more abstract, categorical way than most fourth-grade children are capable of doing. The findings on the dichotic listening tasks are thought to suggest that sequential and not parallel processing is used in recognizing two words presented simultaneously.;Subjects were selected from schools that utilized either progressive or traditional educational methods, since it had been suggested that progressive education encourages the development of a cognitive style which processes material in a parallel fashion, while traditional education aids in the development of a cognitive style that processes information in a sequential fashion. However, no difference was found between the two groups. It is assumed that educational method does not influence cognitive style at the relatively simple level of cognitive analysis required by the tasks in the present study.
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