Statistical learning and learning to read (symposium in honour of Kate Nation)


Experimental Psychology Society


March, 2022


Davide Crepaldi

Multiple sources of evidence support the idea that reading and visual word identification build upon statistical regularties in the (written) language. However, direct experimental evidence for this connection is still meager, and sometimes mixed (e.g., bigram frequency effects). Focusing on children, I present evidence that, yes, there is evidence for sensitivity to letter statistics in natural reading for comprehension, specifically in the form of nGram frequency effects that can't be traced back to word-level statistics. I will also complement this observational evidence with causal evidence showing that children capture letter statistics as they gain familiarity with a novel lexicon, and use these statistics to decide whether novel stimuli are likely to be novel words from the same lexicon. Is this evidence that children actually do use letter statistics in their pathway to proficient reading? I'm not sure, but I'm sure it'll be interesting to discuss this possibility.