The few studies that compared auditory skill learning between children and adults found variable results, with only some children reaching adult-like thresholds following training. The present study aimed to assess auditory skill learning in children as compared with adults during single- and multisession training. It was of interest to ascertain whether children who do not reach adult-like performance following a single training session simply require additional training, or whether different mechanisms underlying skill learning need to reach maturity in order to become adult-like performers. Forty children (7–9 years) and 45 young adults (18–35 years) trained in a single session. Of them, 20 children and 24 adults continued training for eight additional sessions. Each session included six frequency discrimination thresholds at 1000 Hz using adaptive forced-choice procedure. Retention of the learning-gains was tested 6 to 8 months posttraining. Results showed that (a) over half of the children presented similar performance and time course of learning as the adults. These children had better nonverbal reasoning and working memory abilities than their non-adult-like peers. (b) The best predicting factor for the outcomes of multisession training was a child’s performance following one training session. (c) Performance gains were retained for all children with the non-adult-like children further improving, 6 to 8 months posttraining. Results suggest that mature auditory skill learning can emerge before puberty, provided that task-related cognitive mechanisms and task-specific sensory processing are already mature. Short-term training is sufficient, however, to reflect the maturity of these mechanisms, allowing the prediction of the efficiency of a prolonged training for a given child.
- adult-like learning
- auditory training
- difference limen for frequency
- frequency discrimination
- mature auditory learning