From a theoretical perspective, most discussions of statistical learning have focused on the possible “statistical” properties that are the object of learning. Much less attention has been given to defining what “learning” is in the context of “statistical learning.” One major difficulty is that SL research has been monitoring participants’ performance in laboratory settings with a strikingly narrow set of tasks, where learning is typically assessed offline, through a set of two-alternative-forced-choice questions, which follow a brief visual or auditory familiarization (...) stream. Is that all there is to characterizing SL abilities? Here we adopt a novel perspective for investigating the processing of regularities in the visual modality. By tracking online performance in a self-paced SL paradigm, we focus on the trajectory of learning. In a set of three experiments we show that this paradigm provides a reliable and valid signature of SL performance, and it offers important insights for understanding how statistical regularities are perceived and assimilated in the visual modality. This demonstrates the promise of integrating different operational measures to our theory of SL. (shrink)
One of the themes that has been widely addressed in both the implicit learning and statistical learning literatures is that of rule learning. While it is widely agreed that the extraction of regularities from the environment is a fundamental facet of cognition, there is still debate about the nature of rule learning. Rey and colleagues show that the comparison between human and non‐human primates can contribute important insights to this debate.
In order to extract the regularities underlying a continuous sensory input, the individual elements constituting the stream have to be encoded and their transitional probabilities (TPs) should be learned. This suggests that variance in statistical learning (SL) performance reflects efficiency in encoding representations as well as efficiency in detecting their statistical properties. These processes have been taken to be independent and temporally modular, where first, elements in the stream are encoded into internal representations, and then the co‐occurrences between them are (...) computed and registered. Here, we entertain a novel hypothesis that one unifying construct—the rate of information in the sensory input—explains learning performance. This theoretical approach merges processes related to encoding of events and those related to learning their regularities into a single computational principle. We present data from two large‐scale experiments with over 800 participants tested in support for this hypothesis, showing that rate of information in a visual stream clearly predicts SL performance, and that similar rate of information values leads to similar SL performance. We discuss the implications for SL theory and its relation to regularity learning. (shrink)