No statistical learning advantage in children over adults: Evidence from behaviour and neural entrainment.
Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience
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Explicit recognition measures of statistical learning (SL) suggest that children and adults have similar linguistic SL abilities. However, explicit tasks recruit additional cognitive processes that are not directly relevant for SL and may thus underestimate children's true SL capacities. In contrast, implicit tasks and neural measures of SL should be less influenced by explicit, higher-level cognitive abilities and thus may be better suited to capturing developmental differences in SL. Here, we assessed SL to six minutes of an artificial language in English-speaking children (n = 56, 24 females, M = 9.98 years) and adults (n = 44; 31 females, M = 22.97 years), using explicit and implicit behavioural measures and an EEG measure of neural entrainment. With few exceptions, children and adults showed largely similar performance on the behavioural explicit and implicit tasks, replicating prior work. Children and adults also demonstrated robust neural entrainment to both words and syllables, with a similar time course of word-level entrainment, reflecting learning of the hidden word structure. These results demonstrate that children and adults have similar linguistic SL abilities, even when learning is assessed through implicit performance-based and neural measures.
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