Frost, R., Armstrong, B. C., Seigelman, N., Christiansen, M. H.  (2015).  Domain generality versus modality specificity: The paradox of statistical learning.  Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 19(3), 117-125.  Invited peer-reviewed contribution.  


Author's self-archived version (.pdf)  (33 pages)

Official version in TICS [external link]


Statistical learning is typically considered to be a domain-general mechanism by which cognitive systems discover the underlying distributional properties of the input. Recent studies examining whether there are commonalities in the learning of distributional information across different domains or modalities consistently reveal, however, modality and stimulus specificity. An important question is, therefore, how and why a hypothesized domain-general learning mechanism systematically produces such effects. We offer a theoretical framework according to which statistical learning is not a unitary mechanism, but a set of domain-general computational principles, that operate in different modalities and therefore are subject to the specific constraints characteristic of their respective brain regions. This framework offers testable predictions and we discuss its computational and neurobiological plausibility.

Keywords: statistical learning, domain-general mechanisms, modality specificity, stimulus specificity, neurobiologically plausible models.  

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