Colour-word association is an interesting method of teaching students how to speak another language. A research team led by Pienie Zwitserlood from Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität in Münster, Germany, aimed to separate the effects of semantic and response learning, while people learnt how to associate colour with new words. (Semantic learning refers to the basic general knowledge humans build and store in their semantic memory during life, while newborns, infants and toddlers develop and learn simple skills incidentally through physical movements, commonly referred to as response learning.) During the experiment, the researchers varied the word-colour and word-response associations participants could select from, across twenty bi-syllable pseudowords (words with no meaning). Some of the words created included: edok, meha, inwa and sego. The participants were asked to match the pseudowords with a colour and the results showed they progressively adapted or learnt to associate the words to colour. The experiment was far more complex in its design than previous studies and successfully discerned between the effect of response learning and semantic learning components. The researchers reported that response learning was a powerful influencer of colour-word association learning but the effects of semantic learning could not be dismissed.
For a more in depth account, the research article Disentangling semantic and response learning effects in color-word contingency learning is freely available to read via the Journal, PlosOne.