DeLTA Center Interdisciplinary Research Grants Awarded

May 03, 2018

The DeLTA Center has selected two grants for funding this semester through the DeLTA Center Interdisciplinary Research Grant program. The projects chosen show a strong promise to further the mission of the DeLTA Center, and were selected from a very competitive pool.

Congratulations to Tanja Roembke and Kelsey Klein on being awarded this funding!

Grant Title: Effects of Variability on Learning in a Motor Analogy of Reading

Project Coordinator: Tanja Roembke; Faculty Supporters: Eliot Hazeltine & Bob McMurray

Abstract: Variability in irrelevant elements has been found to benefit learning (e.g., Gomez, 2002, Rost & McMurray, 2009). A recent study by Apfelbaum, Hazeltine, and McMurray (2013) discovered similar learning benefits for first graders’ vowel reading when being trained on variable consonants (e.g., MAIL, VAIN, PAID) instead of similar ones (e.g., MAIL, SAIL, RAIL). As school-based work is expensive and slow, a lab-based analog to reading was developed for adults. Surprisingly, this task showed that similarity in “consonants”—not variability—was beneficial to “vowel” learning (Roembke, McMurray, & Hazeltine, in preparation). One reason for why first graders’ reading profited from consonant variability may be that they had already received school training on sound/spelling mappings before entering Apfelbaum et al.’s experiment (2013). In contrast, adult participants in the motor analog task learned the mappings from scratch. The goal of this proposal is to investigate if such differences in prior knowledge contributed to whether variability is beneficial or hurtful to learning to read. For this purpose, participants will receive training on a subset of the mappings before entering the rest of the lab-based analog. The results of this study will inform our understanding of how variability in irrelevant elements can be applied to real-life learning problems, such as reading, and may have important implications for education practices.


Grant Title: Real-time Spoken Word Recognition Processes in Children that are Deaf and Hard of Hearing

Project Coordinator: Kelsey Klein; Faculty Supporters: Bob McMurray & Elizabeth Walker

Abstract: Spoken language processing is complex. As the speech signal unfolds, listeners must cope with temporary ambiguity. For example, at the start of a word sand-, it is unclear if the target word is sandal or sandwich. Even with incomplete information, normal hearing listeners activate multiple candidate words within milliseconds of word presentation to increase word recognition efficiency. Efficient language processing is crucial for effective communication in everyday life. Children with hearing loss who use hearing aids or cochlear implants face the added obstacle of processing spoken language via a degraded or inconsistent speech signal, and these children are at risk for language delays. Efficient language processing lays the foundation for language comprehension, but little research has focused on these processes in children with hearing loss. In this study, I will investigate the time course of word recognition processes in the context of semantic and phonological competitors in school-age children with hearing aids and children with cochlear implants. I will additionally examine the longitudinal effects of early auditory access on word recognition processes in children with hearing aids. Findings will contribute important knowledge to theoretical, clinical, and educational approaches to supporting language development and learning in children with hearing loss.