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Domain general constraints on statistical learning.

journal contribution
posted on 01.03.2011, 00:00 by Erik Thiessen

All theories of language development suggest that learning is constrained. However, theories differ on whether these constraints arise from language-specific processes or have domain-general origins such as the characteristics of human perception and information processing. The current experiments explored constraints on statistical learning of patterns, such as the phonotactic patterns of an infants' native language. Infants in these experiments were presented with a visual analog of a phonotactic learning task used by J. R. Saffran and E. D. Thiessen (2003). Saffran and Thiessen found that infants' phonotactic learning was constrained such that some patterns were learned more easily than other patterns. The current results indicate that infants' learning of visual patterns shows the same constraints as infants' learning of phonotactic patterns. This is consistent with theories suggesting that constraints arise from domain-general sources and, as such, should operate over many kinds of stimuli in addition to linguistic stimuli.