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Impairments in statistical learning might be a common deficit among individuals with Specific Language Impairment (SLI) and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Using metaanalysis, we examined statistical learning in SLI (14 studies, 15 comparisons) and ASD (13 studies, 20 comparisons) to evaluate this hypothesis. Effect sizes were examined as a function of diagnosis across multiple statistical learning tasks (Serial Reaction Time, Contextual Cueing, Artificial Grammar Learning, Speech Stream, Observational Learning, and Probabilistic Classification). Individuals with SLI showed deficits in statistical learning relative to age-matched controls. In contrast, statistical learning was intact in individuals with ASD relative to controls. Effect sizes did not vary as a function of task modality or participant age. Our findings inform debates about overlapping socialcommunicative difficulties in children with SLI and ASD by suggesting distinct underlying mechanisms. In line with the procedural deficit hypothesis (Ullman and Pierpont, 2005), impaired statistical learning may account for phonological and syntactic difficulties associated with SLI. In contrast, impaired statistical learning fails to account for the social-pragmatic difficulties associated with ASD.


This article was originally published in frontiers in Psychology, available at doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2016.01245.

This is an open- access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CCBY).



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