Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Statistical learning: a powerful mechanism that operates by mere exposure

an article by Richard N. Aslin (University of Rochester, NY, USA) published in Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Cognitive Science Volume 8 Issue 1-2 (January-April 2017)


How do infants learn so rapidly and with little apparent effort? In 1996, Saffran, Aslin, and Newport reported that 8-month-old human infants could learn the underlying temporal structure of a stream of speech syllables after only 2 min of passive listening.

This demonstration of what was called statistical learning, involving no instruction, reinforcement, or feedback, led to dozens of confirmations of this powerful mechanism of implicit learning in a variety of modalities, domains, and species. These findings reveal that infants are not nearly as dependent on explicit forms of instruction as we might have assumed from studies of learning in which children or adults are taught facts such as math or problem solving skills.

Instead, at least in some domains, infants soak up the information around them by mere exposure. Learning and development in these domains thus appear to occur automatically and with little active involvement by an instructor (parent or teacher).

The details of this statistical learning mechanism are discussed, including how exposure to specific types of information can, under some circumstances, generalize to never-before-observed information, thereby enabling transfer of learning.

For further resources related to this article, please visit the WIREs website.

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