Evans, J.L., Saffran, J.R., & Robe-Torres, K. (2009). Statistical learning in children with specific language impairment. Journal of Speech Language and Hearing Research, 52, 321-335.
This study examines statistical learning in children with specific language impairment (SLI), a difficulty acquiring language despite otherwise typical development generally. Statistical learning is a time of implicit learning – learning without awareness – that involves tracking patterns of regularities over input (such as strings of syllables).
Children with either SLI or typical development engaged in a drawing task while strings of syllables were played either for 21 or 42 minutes. The syllable strings contained predictable sequences of syllables (“words”) but were otherwise word boundaries were no otherwise marked by prosodic pattern or pauses. After 21 minutes, the typically developing children showed significant learning while the SLI group performed at chance levels. After 42 minutes, the performance of the two groups did not differ reflecting learning on the parts of both groups. Analysis of response errors revealed that the children with SLI often chose a foil phonologically related to the target. It was suggested that the children with SLI may not have retained enough phonological detail to differentiate the target and foil items at test.
This paper was a pleasure to read. The study was well designed, and the paper well written. The results emphasize the protracted learning and need for repeated exposures by children with SLI.
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