Detecting non-adjacent dependencies is the exception rather than the rule

Laure Tosatto, Guillem Bonafos, Jean-Baptiste Melmi, & Arnaud Rey

Statistical learning refers to our sensitivity to the distributional properties of our environment. Humans have been shown to readily detect the dependency relationship of events that occur adjacently in a stream of stimuli but processing non-adjacent dependencies (NADs) appears more challenging. In the present study, we tested the ability of human participants to detect NADs in a new Hebb-naming task that has been proposed recently to study regularity detection in a noisy environment. In three experiments, we found that most participants did not manage to extract NADs. These results suggest that the ability to learn NADs in noise is the exception rather than the rule. They provide new information about the limits of statistical learning mechanisms.
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