Statistical learning as an individual ability: Theoretical perspectives and empirical evidence

Noam Siegelman*, Ram Frost

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

194 Scopus citations


Although the power of statistical learning (SL) in explaining a wide range of linguistic functions is gaining increasing support, relatively little research has focused on this theoretical construct from the perspective of individual differences. However, to be able to reliably link individual differences in a given ability such as language learning to individual differences in SL, three critical theoretical questions should be posed: Is SL a componential or unified ability? Is it nested within other general cognitive abilities? Is it a stable capacity of an individual? Following an initial mapping sentence outlining the possible dimensions of SL, we employed a battery of SL tasks in the visual and auditory modalities, using verbal and non-verbal stimuli, with adjacent and non-adjacent contingencies. SL tasks were administered along with general cognitive tasks in a within-subject design at two time points to explore our theoretical questions. We found that SL, as measured by some tasks, is a stable and reliable capacity of an individual. Moreover, we found SL to be independent of general cognitive abilities such as intelligence or working memory. However, SL is not a unified capacity, so that individual sensitivity to conditional probabilities is not uniform across modalities and stimuli.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)105-120
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Memory and Language
StatePublished - 1 May 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 Elsevier Inc.


  • Individual differences
  • Predicting linguistic abilities
  • Statistical learning


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