Musical experience influences statistical learning of a novel language

Anthony Shook*, Viorica Marian, James Bartolotti, Scott R. Schroeder

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


Musical experience may benefit learning of a new language by increasing the fidelity with which the auditory system encodes sound. In the current study, participants with varying degrees of musical experience were exposed to two statistically defined languages consisting of auditory Morse code sequences that varied in difficulty. We found an advantage for highly skilled musicians, relative to lower-skilled musicians, in learning novel Morse code-based words. Furthermore, in the more difficult learning condition, performance of lower-skilled musicians was mediated by their general cognitive abilities. We suggest that musical experience may improve processing of statistical information and that musicians' enhanced ability to learn statistical probabilities in a novel Morse code language may extend to natural language learning.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)95-104
Number of pages10
JournalAmerican Journal of Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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