City Research Online

Statistical learning and memory

Endress, A., Slone, L. K. & Johnson, S. P. (2020). Statistical learning and memory. Cognition, 204, 104346. doi: 10.1016/j.cognition.2020.104346


Learners often need to identify and remember recurring units in continuous sequences, but the underlying mechanisms are debated. A particularly prominent candidate mechanism relies on distributional statistics such as Transitional Probabilities (TPs). However, it is unclear what the outputs of statistical segmentation mechanisms are, and if learners store these outputs as discrete chunks in memory. We critically review the evidence for the possibility that statistically coherent items are stored in memory and outline difficulties in interpreting past research. We use Slone and Johnson's (2018) experiments as a case study to show that it is difficult to delineate the different mechanisms learners might use to solve a learning problem. Slone and Johnson (2018) reported that 8-month-old infants learned coherent chunks of shapes in visual sequences. Here, we describe an alternate interpretation of their findings based on a multiple-cue integration perspective. First, when multiple cues to statistical structure were available, infants' looking behavior seemed to track with the strength of the strongest one | backward TPs, suggesting that infants process multiple cues simultaneously and select the strongest one. Second, like adults, infants are exquisitely sensitive to chunks, but may require multiple cues to extract them. In Slone and Johnson's (2018) experiments, these cues were provided by immediate chunk repetitions during familiarization. Accordingly, infants showed strongest evidence of chunking following familiarization sequences in which immediate repetitions were more frequent. These interpretations provide a strong argument for infants' processing of multiple cues and the potential importance of multiple cues for chunk recognition in infancy.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: © 2020. This manuscript version is made available under the CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0 license
Publisher Keywords: Statistical learning; language acquisition; word segmentation; serial memory
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
H Social Sciences > HA Statistics
P Language and Literature > P Philology. Linguistics
Q Science > QA Mathematics
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Psychology
Text - Accepted Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives.

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