Are the products of statistical learning abstract or stimulus-specific?

Athena Vouloumanos, Patricia E. Brosseau-Liard, Evan Balaban, Alanna D. Hager

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Learners can segment potential lexical units from syllable streams when statistically variable transitional probabilities between adjacent syllables are the only cues to word boundaries. Here we examine the nature of the representations that result from statistical learning by assessing learners' ability to generalize across acoustically different stimuli. In three experiments, we compare two possibilities: that the products of statistical segmentation processes are abstract and generalizable representations, or, alternatively, that products of statistical learning are stimulus-bound and restricted to perceptually similar instances. In Experiment 1, learners segmented units from statistically predictable streams, and recognized these units when they were acoustically transformed by temporal reversals. In Experiment 2, learners were able to segment units from temporally reversed syllable streams, but were only able to generalize in conditions of mild acoustic transformation. In Experiment 3, learners were able to recognize statistically segmented units after a voice change but were unable to do so when the novel voice was mildly distorted. Together these results suggest that representations that result from statistical learning can be abstracted to some degree, but not in all listening conditions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberArticle 70
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Issue numberMAR
StatePublished - 2012


  • Acoustics
  • Generalization
  • Representation
  • Segmentation
  • Speech perception
  • Statistical learning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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