Implicit statistical learning in language processing: Word predictability is the key

Christopher M. Conway, Althea Bauernschmidt, Sean S. Huang, David Pisoni

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

143 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Fundamental learning abilities related to the implicit encoding of sequential structure have been postulated to underlie language acquisition and processing. However, there is very little direct evidence to date supporting such a link between implicit statistical learning and language. In three experiments using novel methods of assessing implicit learning and language abilities, we show that sensitivity to sequential structure - as measured by improvements to immediate memory span for structurally-consistent input sequences - is significantly correlated with the ability to use knowledge of word predictability to aid speech perception under degraded listening conditions. Importantly, the association remained even after controlling for participant performance on other cognitive tasks, including short-term and working memory, intelligence, attention and inhibition, and vocabulary knowledge. Thus, the evidence suggests that implicit learning abilities are essential for acquiring long-term knowledge of the sequential structure of language - i.e., knowledge of word predictability - and that individual differences on such abilities impact speech perception in everyday situations. These findings provide a new theoretical rationale linking basic learning phenomena to specific aspects of spoken language processing in adults, and may furthermore indicate new fruitful directions for investigating both typical and atypical language development.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)356-371
Number of pages16
JournalCognition
Volume114
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 2010

Fingerprint

Word Processing
Aptitude
Language
Learning
Short-Term Memory
knowledge of languages
ability
language
Speech Perception
learning
Language Development
Vocabulary
spoken language
language acquisition
Intelligence
Individuality
evidence
intelligence
vocabulary
Predictability

Keywords

  • Implicit learning
  • Individual differences
  • Language processing
  • Speech perception
  • Statistical learning
  • Word predictability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Linguistics and Language
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology

Cite this

Implicit statistical learning in language processing : Word predictability is the key. / Conway, Christopher M.; Bauernschmidt, Althea; Huang, Sean S.; Pisoni, David.

In: Cognition, Vol. 114, No. 3, 03.2010, p. 356-371.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Conway, Christopher M. ; Bauernschmidt, Althea ; Huang, Sean S. ; Pisoni, David. / Implicit statistical learning in language processing : Word predictability is the key. In: Cognition. 2010 ; Vol. 114, No. 3. pp. 356-371.
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