Unraveling the Interconnections Between Statistical Learning and Dyslexia: A Review of Recent Empirical Studies

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Abstract

One important aspect of human cognition involves the learning of structured information encountered in our environment, a phenomenon known as statistical learning. A growing body of research suggests that learning to read print is partially guided by learning the statistical contingencies existing between the letters within a word, and also between the letters and sounds to which the letters refer. Research also suggests that impairments to statistical learning ability may at least partially explain the difficulties experienced by individuals diagnosed with dyslexia. However, the findings regarding impaired learning are not consistent, perhaps partly due to the varied use of methodologies across studies – such as differences in the learning paradigms, stimuli used, and the way that learning is assessed – as well as differences in participant samples such as age and extent of the learning disorder. In this review, we attempt to examine the purported link between statistical learning and dyslexia by assessing a set of the most recent and relevant studies in both adults and children. Based on this review, we conclude that although there is some evidence for a statistical learning impairment in adults with dyslexia, the evidence for an impairment in children is much weaker. We discuss several suggestive trends that emerge from our examination of the research, such as issues related to task heterogeneity, possible age effects, the role of publication bias, and other suggestions for future research such as the use of neural measures and a need to better understand how statistical learning changes across typical development. We conclude that no current theoretical framework of dyslexia fully captures the extant research findings on statistical learning.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number734179
JournalFrontiers in Human Neuroscience
Volume15
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 22 2021

Keywords

  • developmental dyslexia (DD)
  • developmental language disorder (DLD)
  • implicit learning
  • reading
  • statistical learning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Neurology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry
  • Behavioral Neuroscience

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