This Title All WIREs
How to cite this WIREs title:
WIREs Cogn Sci
Impact Factor: 3.476

Statistical learning: a powerful mechanism that operates by mere exposure

Full article on Wiley Online Library:   HTML PDF

Can't access this content? Tell your librarian.

How do infants learn so rapidly and with little apparent effort? In 1996, Saffran, Aslin, and Newport reported that 8‐month‐old human infants could learn the underlying temporal structure of a stream of speech syllables after only 2 min of passive listening. This demonstration of what was called statistical learning, involving no instruction, reinforcement, or feedback, led to dozens of confirmations of this powerful mechanism of implicit learning in a variety of modalities, domains, and species. These findings reveal that infants are not nearly as dependent on explicit forms of instruction as we might have assumed from studies of learning in which children or adults are taught facts such as math or problem solving skills. Instead, at least in some domains, infants soak up the information around them by mere exposure. Learning and development in these domains thus appear to occur automatically and with little active involvement by an instructor (parent or teacher). The details of this statistical learning mechanism are discussed, including how exposure to specific types of information can, under some circumstances, generalize to never‐before‐observed information, thereby enabling transfer of learning. WIREs Cogn Sci 2017, 8:e1373. doi: 10.1002/wcs.1373 This article is categorized under: Psychology > Learning
Illustration of the stimuli used by Saffran et al. to study statistical learning in 8‐month‐old infants. (a) The inventory of syllables and tri‐syllabic words. (b) The statistical structure of the words and part‐words. TP, transitional probability. See Supporting information for link to sound file.
[ Normal View | Magnified View ]
The design of the Marcus et al. experiment on rule learning in which 9‐month‐olds were presented with a large inventory of syllables with a uniform ABB pattern. The test items presented after familiarization were composed of entirely novel syllables that either conformed to the familiar ABB pattern or exhibited a novel AAB pattern. The Gerken experiment used two subsets of the overall inventory of stimuli from Marcus et al. Blue highlight = broad generalization. Red highlight = narrow generalization.
[ Normal View | Magnified View ]
The stimuli and design of the spatial version of the statistical learning task from Fiser and Aslin with adults. (a) The inventory of shapes and a sample of their arrangement in 3 × 3 grids. The shape‐pairs used during the post‐test showing their joint and conditional probabilities. The stimuli and design of the analogous task used with 9‐month‐old infants by Fiser and Aslin. (b) The inventory of shapes and sample scenes presented during familiarization. The shape pairs used during the post‐test and their underlying statistics.
[ Normal View | Magnified View ]

Related Articles

How We Develop — Developmental Systems and the Emergence of Complex Behaviors
Top Ten WCS Articles

Browse by Topic

Psychology > Learning

Access to this WIREs title is by subscription only.

Recommend to Your
Librarian Now!

The latest WIREs articles in your inbox

Sign Up for Article Alerts