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Procedural Learning

The Endgame is Procedural Memory

Accent Reduction: The Endgame is Procedural Memory Article 11

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Happiness is neither virtue nor pleasures nor this thing nor that but simply growth.  We are happy when we are growing.   William Butler Yeats.

The endgame is to type on a keyboard without looking at the keys.  Or to safely ride a bike, or safely drive a car, or accurate English speech!

All are procedural memory which end up as automatically retrieved.  When needed procedural memories are automatically retrieved and used for execution of the bringing together of procedures involved in both cognitive and motor skills.  These skills also range from tying shoes, to reading, to acquiring grammatical rules according to Koziol et al, 2012,  Wikipedia, 2023, and Ullman et al, 2005.

Acquisition of clear and accurate English speech communication is  procedural learning.  Procedural memory is a type of long-term memory which aids the performance of particular types of tasks without ongoing conscious awareness of the previous experiences of learning.

Procedural memory is created through procedural learning, or repeating a complex activity over and over again, until all of the relevant neural systems work together  to automatically produce the activity.  Implicit procedural learning is essential for the development of any motor skill or cognitive activity.   Procedural learning and memory are implicit because the actual learning is inferred from an individual’s improvement in performing the task.

Repeating the task over and over is critical.  It is in the repetition that all the relevant and needed neural systems get connected to work together.

We’re lucky to be living in 2023.  Originally, Beaunieux and colleagues (2006) in empirical research  confirmed the existence of three separate phases of procedural learning.  They conceptualized the three phases as a combination of explicit and implicit contributions to the formation of procedural memory.

Specifically, during the repetition of the task, at the beginning of learning a task is where the effortful learning of the cognitive phase happens.  Repeating of a task over and over at the beginning of learning is marked by a steep learning curve.  Then with more repeating of a task, that is followed by gradual improvement and ends in high performance levels without further improvement.  The gradual increases to higher or better performances characterize emerging automatization of the associative phaseSustained highest performance characterizes autonomous procedures when procedural memory has formed (Hong et al, 2019).

Learning to drive is one of the most widely known examples of procedural learning among adults.   The more you drive, the better you get at it.  Just reading a manual on driving or observing your parents drive will not suffice, and hence you won’t be a good driver unless you put your foot to the pedals.

What does this have to do with acquisition of clear English speech communication?  Typically nonnative-born adults who find that others are having difficulty (and likely frustrated) with understanding their English speech seek fixing their English speech communication.  (Alternatively, their supervisors recommend instruction.)   Since these adults have spent 18 or more years of speech production in their first language,  the ground floor or core task is their learning how to produce the American English (AE) 25 consonants and 14 vowel sounds accurately so they are easily understood by native-born Americans and other internationally- born persons.   There is cause for rejoicing for the first language consonant and vowel sounds which are the same as American English.  Ground floor is thus focusing on acquiring the position  and speed of the articulators of tongue, lips, teeth and jaw and making a voice or no voice for American English consonants and vowels which are different from the first language.  This is the cognitive stage of learning for the procedural learning of accurate American English speech communication.

In order to go from the first phase of procedural learning which is the effortful phase and cognitive phase (steep curve of learning), through the associative phase (more gradual learning) and onto the final autonomous phase of learning for sustained high performance—all this takes practice over and over again for the speech articulators, vocal folds, and pushing of air from the lungs.  The repeated practice must be accurate!

Again, good thing we live in the 21st century.  Procedural memory is created by repetition of complex tasks until all the requisite neural systems work together to produce automatically the activity.  We actually know a great deal about those required neural systems.  More about those neural systems  later.

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