The role of handedness and statistical learning in adults' language abilities

Level of Education of Students Involved


Faculty Sponsor

Dr. Abbie Thompson, PhD


Arts and Sciences



Presentation Type

Poster Presentation

Symposium Date

Spring 4-27-2023


People use many different strategies in order to learn a language. One way we think individuals learn language is through statistical learning (SL) where they track the regularities in the speech stream in both adjacent (Saffran et al., 1996) and non-adjacent dependencies (NAD) (Gomez, 2002). Handedness is related to adult language abilities (Knecht et al., 2000). This relationship between handedness and language is thought to be driven by lateralization, where handedness is a proxy for lateralization. The current study will investigate the relationship between handedness and SL in adults’ language abilities.

Participants will be undergraduate students. Participants' handedness will be assessed with the Waterloo Handedness Questionnaire (Cavill & Bryden, 2003). Their SL will be tested using the SL language from Gomez (2002) testing NADs. Participants will listen to the language during a familiarization period. After listening to the language, participants will hear a string of syllables and will then decide if the string that they heard was correct or incorrect for the language they heard previously. SL abilities will be calculated using the number of syllables they correctly judge as having come from the language they heard previously.

It is predicted that lateralized adults, adults who are either left-handed or right-handed, will have better scores on the SL task. A t-test will be used to determine if there was a significant difference in SL scores for left versus right-handed adults. This study will extend and help elucidate some of the mechanisms that may play a role in language.

Biographical Information about Author(s)

Meghan McCann, a current sophomore, is a Psychology major with a Social Work Direct Practice minor. She plans to pursue higher education in School Psychology.

Allison Kom, a current sophomore, is a Psychology major with a Sociology minor. She intends to pursue higher education in Industrial-Organizational Psychology.

Meghan and Allie are interested in language acquisition and learning, specifically related to handedness. They enjoy learning about developmental psychology and look forward to working on future projects in this field.

This work was completed in collaboration with the Language Acquisition and Learning Lab under the supervision of Dr. Abbie Thompson, Assistant professor of psychology.

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