Reduced Implicit but not Explicit Knowledge of Cross-Situational Statistical Learning in Developmental Dyslexia

Nitzan Kligler, Chen Yu, Yafit Gabay

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Although statistical learning (SL) has been studied extensively in developmental dyslexia (DD), less attention has been paid to other fundamental challenges in language acquisition, such as cross-situational word learning. Such investigation is important for determining whether and how SL processes are affected in DD at the word level. In this study, typically developed (TD) adults and young adults with DD were exposed to a set of trials that contained multiple spoken words and multiple pictures of individual objects, with no information about word-referent correspondences provided within a trial. Nonetheless, cross-trial statistical relations could be exploited to learn word-referent mappings. The degree of within-trial reference uncertainty and the novelty of to-be-learned objects (novel or familiar) were varied under different learning conditions. The results show that across all conditions, young adults with DD were significantly impaired in their ability to exploit cross-trial regularities in co-occurring visual–auditory streams to discover word-referent mappings. Observed impairments were most pronounced when within-trial reference uncertainty was the highest. Subjective measures of knowledge awareness revealed greater development of implicit but not explicit knowledge in the TD group than in the DD group. Together, these findings suggest that the SL deficit in DD affects fundamental language learning challenges at the word level and points to greater reliance on explicit processes due to impaired implicit associative learning among individuals with DD. Such a deficit is likely to influence spoken language acquisition, and in turn affect literacy skills, in people with DD.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere13325
JournalCognitive Science
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2023
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 The Authors. Cognitive Science published by Wiley Periodicals LLC on behalf of Cognitive Science Society (CSS).


Funding information: This work was funded by the Israel Science Foundation (Grant 734/22) awarded to YG and by the National Institutes of Health (Grant R01HD093792) awarded to CY.

FundersFunder number
National Institutes of HealthR01HD093792
Israel Science Foundation734/22


    • Cross-situational statistical learning
    • Developmental dyslexia
    • Implicit–explicit knowledge
    • Referential ambiguity
    • Statistical learning


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