Order or Disorder? Impaired Hebb Learning in Dyslexia

Arnaud Szmalec, Maaike Loncke, M.P.A. Page, Wouter Duyck

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

73 Citations (Scopus)
293 Downloads (Pure)


The present study offers an integrative account proposing that dyslexia and its various associated cognitive impairments reflect an underlying deficit in the long-term learning of serial-order information, here operationalized as Hebb repetition learning. In nondyslexic individuals, improved immediate serial recall is typically observed when one particular sequence of items is repeated across an experimental session, a phenomenon known as the Hebb repetition effect. Starting from the critical observation that individuals with dyslexia seem to be selectively impaired in cognitive tasks that involve processing of serial order, the present study is the first to test and confirm the hypothesis that the Hebb repetition effect is affected in dyslexia, even for nonverbal modalities. We present a theoretical framework in which the Hebb repetition effect is assumed to be a laboratory analogue of naturalistic word learning, on the basis of which we argue that dyslexia is characterized by an impairment of serial-order learning that affects language learning and processing.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1270-1279
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory and Cognition
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2011


  • dyslexia
  • Hebb sequence learning
  • language learning
  • reading
  • working memory


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