The Promise—and Challenge—of Statistical Learning for Elucidating Atypical Language Development

Joanne Arciuli, Christopher M. Conway

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


Statistical learning plays an important role in the acquisition of spoken and written language. It has been proposed that impaired or atypical statistical learning may be linked with language difficulties in developmental disabilities. However, research on statistical learning in individuals with developmental disabilities such as autism spectrum disorder, dyslexia, and specific language impairment, and in individuals with cochlear implants, has produced divergent findings. It is unclear whether, and to what extent, statistical learning is impaired or atypical in each of these developmental disabilities. We suggest that these disparate findings point to several critical issues that must be addressed before we can evaluate the role of statistical learning in atypical child development. While the issues we outline are interrelated, we propose four key points relating to (a) the nature of statistical learning, (b) the myriad of ways in which statistical learning can be measured, (c) our lack of understanding regarding the developmental trajectory of statistical learning, and (d) the role of individual differences. We close by making suggestions that we believe will be helpful in moving the field forward and creating new synergies among researchers, clinicians, and educators to better support language learners.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)492-500
Number of pages9
JournalCurrent Directions in Psychological Science
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • autism spectrum disorder
  • developmental disabilities
  • dyslexia
  • hearing impairment
  • language acquisition
  • specific language impairment
  • statistical learning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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