Statistical learning has been studied in a variety of different tasks, including word segmentation, object identification, category learning, artificial grammar learning and serial reaction time tasks (e.g. Saffran et al. 1996 Science 274, 1926–1928; Orban et al. 2008 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 105, 2745–2750; Thiessen & Yee 2010 Child Development 81, 1287–1303; Saffran 2002 Journal of Memory and Language 47, 172–196; Misyak & Christiansen 2012 Language Learning 62, 302–331). The difference among these tasks raises questions about whether they all depend on the same kinds of underlying processes and computations, or whether they are tapping into different underlying mechanisms. Prior theoretical approaches to statistical learning have often tried to explain or model learning in a single task. However, in many cases these approaches appear inadequate to explain performance in multiple tasks. For example, explaining word segmentation via the computation of sequential statistics (such as transitional probability) provides little insight into the nature of sensitivity to regularities among simultaneously presented features. In this article, we will present a formal computational approach that we believe is a good candidate to provide a unifying framework to explore and explain learning in a wide variety of statistical learning tasks. This framework suggests that statistical learning arises from a set of processes that are inherent in memory systems, including activation, interference, integration of information and forgetting (e.g. Perruchet & Vinter 1998 Journal of Memory and Language 39, 246–263; Thiessen et al. 2013 Psychological Bulletin 139, 792–814). From this perspective, statistical learning does not involve explicit computation of statistics, but rather the extraction of elements of the input into memory traces, and subsequent integration across those memory traces that emphasize consistent information (Thiessen and Pavlik 2013 Cognitive Science 37, 310–343).
This article is part of the themed issue ‘New frontiers for statistical learning in the cognitive sciences'.
One contribution of 13 to a theme issue ‘New frontiers for statistical learning in the cognitive sciences’.
- Accepted July 28, 2016.
- © 2016 The Author(s)
Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved.