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.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This paper was supported by the ISF (Grant 217/14 awarded to Ram Frost), and by the NICHD (RO1 HD 067364 awarded to Ken Pugh and Ram Frost, and PO1-HD 01994 awarded to Haskins Laboratories). We are indebted to Pierre Perruchet and three anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments.
© 2015 Elsevier Inc.
- Individual differences
- Predicting linguistic abilities
- Statistical learning