Measuring children’s auditory statistical learning via serial recall

Kidd, E., Arciuli, J., Christiansen, M. H., Isbilen, E. S., Revius, K., & Smithson, M. (2020). Measuring children’s auditory statistical learning via serial recall. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 200: 104964. doi:10.1016/j.jecp.2020.104964.
Statistical learning (SL) has been a prominent focus of research in developmental and adult populations, guided by the assumption that it is a fundamental component of learning underlying higher-order cognition. In developmental populations, however, there have been recent concerns regarding the degree to which many current tasks reliably measure SL, particularly in younger children. In the current article, we present the results of two studies that measured auditory statistical learning (ASL) of linguistic stimuli in children aged 5–8 years. Children listened to 6 min of continuous syllables comprising four trisyllabic pseudowords. Following the familiarization phase, children completed (a) a two-alternative forced-choice task and (b) a serial recall task in which they repeated either target sequences embedded during familiarization or foils, manipulated for sequence length. Results showed that, although both measures consistently revealed learning at the group level, the recall task better captured learning across the full range of abilities and was more reliable at the individual level. We conclude that, as has also been demonstrated in adults, the method holds promise for future studies of individual differences in ASL of linguistic stimuli.
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