Concurrent Visual Statistical Learning of Adjacent and Nonadjacent Dependencies in School-Aged Children

Iao, L. , Justice, L. & Jones, G.

Department of Psychology, Nottingham Trent University

Our environment is permeated with statistical regularities, occurring among adjacent elements (e.g., the syllable /pre/ is more likely to be followed by /ty/ than /on/) and nonadjacent elements (e.g., the morphosyntactic rule "is X-ing" where the intervened X is a verb). Previous research has been devoted to the investigation of how humans acquire these adjacent and nonadjacent dependencies and concurrent learning of both dependencies has recently been shown in adults with extended and multiple learning sessions using auditory stimuli. This study extended this line of research by examining whether concurrent learning occurred in children without extensive exposure using visual stimuli. Sixty-four children aged 10 to 11 years (M = 131 months, SD = 3.25) first participated on a serial reaction time (SRT) task in which they were trained on materials comprising equally probable adjacent and nonadjacent dependencies for around 15 minutes. They were then required to discriminate between trained and untrained dependencies. Results indicated that children were sensitive to both types of dependencies during training but this sensitivity was not reflected in explicit discrimination. These findings suggest that implicit concurrent learning of both types of dependencies occurs rapidly in school-aged children.