Statistical approaches to emergent knowledge have tended to focus on the process by which experience of individual episodes accumulates into generalizable experience across episodes. However, there is a seemingly opposite, but equally critical, process that such experience affords: the process by which, from a space of types (e.g. onions—a semantic class that develops through exposure to individual episodes involving individual onions), we can perceive or create, on-the-fly, a specific token (a specific onion, perhaps one that is chopped) in the absence of any prior perceptual experience with that specific token. This article reviews a selection of statistical learning studies that lead to the speculation that this process—the generation, on the basis of semantic memory, of a novel episodic representation—is itself an instance of a statistical, in fact associative, process. The article concludes that the same processes that enable statistical abstraction across individual episodes to form semantic memories also enable the generation, from those semantic memories, of representations that correspond to individual tokens, and of novel episodic facts about those tokens. Statistical learning is a window onto these deeper processes that underpin cognition.
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 September 13, 2016.
- © 2016 The Author(s)
Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved.