The central argument presented in this paper is that statistical learning (SL) is an ability comprised of multiple components that operate largely implicitly. Components relating to the stimulus encoding, retention and abstraction required for SL may include, but are not limited to, certain types of attention, processing speed and memory. It is likely that individuals vary in terms of the efficiency of these underlying components, and in patterns of connectivity among these components, and that SL tasks differ from one another in how they draw on certain underlying components more than others. This theoretical framework is of value because it can assist in gaining a clearer understanding of how SL is linked with individual differences in complex mental activities such as language processing. Variability in language processing across individuals is of central concern to researchers interested in child development, including those interested in neurodevelopmental disorders where language can be affected such as autism spectrum disorders (ASD). This paper discusses the link between SL and individual differences in language processing in the context of age-related changes in SL during infancy and childhood, and whether SL is affected in ASD. Viewing SL as a multi-component ability may help to explain divergent findings from previous empirical research in these areas and guide the design of future studies.
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 August 11, 2016.
- © 2016 The Author(s)
Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved.