Episodic traces and statistical regularities: Paired associate learning in typical and dyslexic readers


Jones MW, Kuipers JR, Nugent S, Miley A & Oppenheim G (2018) Episodic traces and statistical regularities: Paired associate learning in typical and dyslexic readers. Cognition, 177, pp. 214-225.

Learning visual-phonological associations is a key skill underlying successful reading acquisition. However, we are yet to understand the cognitive mechanisms that enable efficient learning in good readers, and those which are aberrant in individuals with developmental dyslexia. Here, we use a repeated cued-recall task to examine how typical and reading-impaired adults acquire novel associations between visual and phonological stimuli, incorporating a looking-at-nothing paradigm to probe implicit memory for target locations. Cued recall accuracy revealed that typical readers’ recall of novel phonological associates was better than dyslexic readers’ recall, and it also improved more with repetition. Eye fixation-contingent error analyses suggest that typical readers’ greater improvement from repetition reflects their more robust encoding and/or retrieval of each instance in which a given pair was presented: whereas dyslexic readers tended to recall a phonological target better when fixating its most recent location, typical readers showed this pattern more strongly when the target location was consistent across multiple trials. Thus, typical readers’ greater success in reading acquisition may derive from their better use of statistical contingencies to identify consistent stimulus features across multiple exposures. We discuss these findings in relation to the role of implicit memory in forming new visual-phonological associations as a foundational skill in reading, and areas of weakness in developmental dyslexia.

Paired associated learning; Visual-phonological binding; Developmental dyslexia; Eye-tracking; Looking-at-nothing; Statistical learning; Episodic memory

Cognition: Volume 177

Publication date31/08/2018
Publication date online30/04/2018
Date accepted by journal10/04/2018