The computations involved in statistical learning have long been debated. Here, we build on work suggesting that a basic memory process, chunking, may account for the processing of statistical regularities into larger units. Drawing on methods from the memory literature, we developed a novel paradigm to test statistical learning by leveraging a robust phenomenon observed in serial recall tasks: that short‐term memory is fundamentally shaped by long‐term distributional learning. In the statistically induced chunking recall (SICR) task, participants are exposed to (...) an artificial language, using a standard statistical learning exposure phase. Afterward, they recall strings of syllables that either follow the statistics of the artificial language or comprise the same syllables presented in a random order. We hypothesized that if individuals had chunked the artificial language into word‐like units, then the statistically structured items would be more accurately recalled relative to the random controls. Our results demonstrate that SICR effectively captures learning in both the auditory and visual modalities, with participants displaying significantly improved recall of the statistically structured items, and even recall specific trigram chunks from the input. SICR also exhibits greater test–retest reliability in the auditory modality and sensitivity to individual differences in both modalities than the standard two‐alternative forced‐choice task. These results thereby provide key empirical support to the chunking account of statistical learning and contribute a valuable new tool to the literature. (shrink)
Both children and adults predict the content of upcoming language, suggesting that prediction is useful for learning as well as processing. We present an alternative model which can explain prediction behaviour as a by-product of language learning. We suggest that a consideration of language acquisition places important constraints on Pickering & Garrod's (P&G's) theory.
There is consensus that the adult lexicon exhibits lexical competition. In particular, substantial evidence demonstrates that words with more phonologically similar neighbors are recognized less efficiently than words with fewer neighbors. How and when these effects emerge in the child's lexicon is less clear. In the current paper, we build on previous research by testing whether phonological onset density slows lexical access in a large sample of 100 English‐acquiring 30‐month‐olds. The children participated in a visual world looking‐while‐listening task, in which (...) their attention was directed to one of two objects on a computer screen while their eye movements were recorded. We found moderate evidence of inhibitory effects of onset neighborhood density on lexical access and clear evidence for an interaction between onset neighborhood density and vocabulary, with larger effects of onset neighborhood density for children with larger vocabularies. Results suggest the lexicons of 30‐month‐olds exhibit lexical‐level competition, with competition increasing with vocabulary size. (shrink)
Humans have the ability to learn surprisingly complicated statistical information in a variety of modalities and situations, often based on relatively little input. These statistical learning (SL) skills appear to underlie many kinds of learning, but despite their ubiquity, we still do not fully understand precisely what SL is and what individual differences on SL tasks reflect. Here, we present experimental work suggesting that at least some individual differences arise from stimulus-specific variation in perceptual fluency: the ability to rapidly or (...) efficiently code and remember the stimuli that SL occurs over. Experiment 1 demonstrates that participants show improved SL when the stimuli are simple and familiar; Experiment 2 shows that this improvement is not evident for simple but unfamiliar stimuli; and Experiment 3 shows that for the same stimuli (Chinese characters), SL is higher for people who are familiar with them (Chinese speakers) than those who are not (English speakers matched on age and education level). Overall, our findings indicate that performance on a standard SL task varies substantially within the same (visual) modality as a function of whether the stimuli involved are familiar or not, independent of stimulus complexity. Moreover, test–retest correlations of performance in an SL task using stimuli of the same level of familiarity (but distinct items) are stronger than correlations across the same task with stimuli of different levels of familiarity. Finally, we demonstrate that SL performance is predicted by an independent measure of stimulus-specific perceptual fluency that contains no SL component at all. Our results suggest that a key component of SL performance may be related to stimulus-specific processing and familiarity. (shrink)