, Volume 61, Issue 1, pp 85-110
Date: 17 Nov 2010

Dyslexic children show deficits in implicit sequence learning, but not in explicit sequence learning or contextual cueing

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Abstract

Dyslexia is a specific learning disability characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling abilities. The absence of other high level cognitive deficits in the dyslexic population has led some authors to propose that non-strategical processes like implicit learning could be impaired in this population. Most studies have addressed this issue by using sequence learning tasks, but so far the results have not been conclusive. We test this hypothesis by comparing the performance of dyslexic children and good readers in both implicit and explicit versions of the sequence learning task, as well as in another implicit learning task not involving sequential information. The results showed that dyslexic children failed to learn the sequence when they were not informed about its presence (implicit condition). In contrast, they learned without significant differences in relation to the good readers group when they were encouraged to discover the sequence and to use it in order to improve their performance (explicit condition). Moreover, we observed that this implicit learning deficit was not extended to other forms of non-sequential, implicit learning such as contextual cueing. In this case, both groups showed similar implicit learning about the information provided by the visual context. These results help to clarify previous contradictory data, and they are discussed in relation to how the implicit sequence learning deficit could contribute to the understanding of dyslexia.