The multi-component nature of statistical learning

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73 Citations (Scopus)


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 multicomponent ability may help to explain divergent findings from previous empirical research in these areas and guide the design of future studies.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20160058
Number of pages9
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1711
Publication statusPublished - 5 Jan 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Autism
  • Child development
  • Individual differences
  • Language
  • Statistical learning


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