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Front. Psychol. | doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2018.00165

Tonal symmetry induces fluency and sense of well-formedness

  • 1University of Jinan, China
  • 2East China Normal University, China
  • 3Zhejiang Normal University, China
  • 4Shandong Normal University, China
  • 5University of Sussex, United Kingdom

Fluency influences grammaticality judgments of visually presented strings in artificial grammar learning (AGL). Of many potential sources that engender fluency, symmetry is considered to be an important factor. However, symmetry may function differently for visual and auditory stimuli, which present computationally different problems. Thus, the current study aimed to examine whether objectively manipulating fluency by speeding up perception (i.e. manipulating the inter-stimulus interval, ISI, between each syllable of a string) influenced judgments of tonal strings; and thus how symmetry-based fluency might influence judgments. In experiment 1, with only a test phase, participants were required to give their preference ratings of tonal strings as a measurement of fluency. In experiment 2, participants were instructed to make grammaticality judgments after being incidentally trained on tonal symmetry. Results of experiment 1 showed that tonal strings with shorter ISI were liked more than those with longer ISI while such difference was not found between symmetric and asymmetric strings without training. Additionally, experiment 2 found both main effects of symmetry and ISI as well as an interaction. In particular, only asymmetric strings were more likely to be judged as grammatical when they were presented at a shorter ISI. Taken together, participants were sensitive to the fluency induced by the manipulation of ISI and sensitive to symmetry only after training. In sum, we conclude that objective speed influenced grammaticality judgments, implicit learning of tonal symmetry resulted in enhanced fluency, and that fluency may serve as a basis for grammaticality judgments.

Keywords: tonal symmetry, fluency, AGL, grammaticality judgments, implicit learning

Received: 22 Sep 2017; Accepted: 31 Jan 2018.

Edited by:

Tifei Yuan, Shanghai Mental Health Center (SMHC), China

Reviewed by:

Michael Barnett-Cowan, University of Waterloo, Canada
Denis Brouillet, Paul Valéry University, Montpellier III, France  

Copyright: © 2018 Qiao, Sun, Li, Ling, Zheng, Li, Guo and Dienes. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Prof. Xiuyan Guo, East China Normal University, Shanghai, China,