Document Type


Date of Degree

Summer 2013

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In


First Advisor

Bob McMurray


Perceptual processes take time to unfold. Whether a person is processing a visual scene, identifying the category an object belongs to, or recognizing a word, cognitive processes involving competition across time occur. These ongoing competitive processes have been ignored in studies of learning. However, some forms of learning suggest that learning could occur while competition is ongoing, resulting in the formation of mappings involving the competing representations. This dissertation uses word learning as a test case to determine whether such learning exists. In a series of five experiments, participants were taught words under different stimulus and task conditions to encourage or discourage learning during periods of lexical competition. These studies reveal a complex relationship between ongoing lexical competition processes and word learning. Specifically, in cases where learners rely on unsupervised associative learning, they present evidence of learning that is continuous in time, starting during periods of lexical competition and continuing throughout the course of its resolution. These studies offer insight into the nature of associative learning, into the forms of learning that occur when learning new words, and into the ways that task and stimulus structure impinge on how a learner forms new associations.


Cognition, Competition, Language, Learning, Word learning


xiii, 185 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 170-185).


Copyright 2013 Keith S. Apfelbaum

Included in

Psychology Commons