Aligning developmental and processing accounts of implicit and statistical learning

Peter, M. S., & Rowland, C. F. (2019). Aligning developmental and processing accounts of implicit and statistical learning. Topics in Cognitive Science, 11, 555-572. doi:10.1111/tops.12396.
A long‐standing question in child language research concerns how children achieve mature syntactic knowledge in the face of a complex linguistic environment. A widely accepted view is that this process involves extracting distributional regularities from the environment in a manner that is incidental and happens, for the most part, without the learner's awareness. In this way, the debate speaks to two associated but separate literatures in language acquisition: statistical learning and implicit learning. Both fields have explored this issue in some depth but, at present, neither the results from the infant studies used by the statistical learning literature nor the artificial grammar learning tasks studies from the implicit learning literature can be used to fully explain how children's syntax becomes adult‐like. In this work, we consider an alternative explanation—that children use error‐based learning to become mature syntax users. We discuss this proposal in the light of the behavioral findings from structural priming studies and the computational findings from Chang, Dell, and Bock's (2006) dual‐path model, which incorporates properties from both statistical and implicit learning, and offers an explanation for syntax learning and structural priming using a common error‐based learning mechanism. We then turn our attention to future directions for the field, here suggesting how structural priming might inform the statistical learning and implicit learning literature on the nature of the learning mechanism.
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