14 December 2018 from 14:30 to 15:30

PhD thesis defence Desiree Capel on sequential learning, domain generality and developmental dyslexia

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On 14 December Desiree Capel will defend her PhD thesis on sequential learning, domain generality, and developmental dyslexia.

This thesis explores sequential learning, the implicit learning of item sequences with a specific statistical structure. Two research questions were investigated. The first is whether sequential learning is a domain-general learning mechanism. Both 8-month-old infants and adults were tested on their sequential-learning capabilities in more than one domain. The infants were tested in the (auditory) language and in the visuospatial domains, the adults also in the visual domain. Neither the infant nor the adult experiments provided a conclusive answer to this question, because performance on sequential learning did not correlate significantly or strongly across domains in either age group.

Drs. Desiree Capel
      Drs. Desiree Capel

developmental dyslexia 

The second research question is whether sequential learning is affected in developmental dyslexia. Both 8-month-old infants at familial risk of dyslexia and adults with dyslexia were tested in the same sequential-learning experiments as their peers without (a risk of) dyslexia. Results related to this question were mixed. The at-risk infants showed an indication of visuospatial sequential learning that was not observed in the typically developing infants. More research is needed to interpret this outcome. In adults with dyslexia, somewhat poorer performance of language sequential learning was found. No clear differences between adults with and without dyslexia were found in the visual and visuospatial experiments.


The question of the domain generality of sequential learning could not be decisively answered, and no support was obtained for a general deficit in sequential learning in dyslexia. The results may, however, point to slightly reduced sequential-learning capabilities in the language domain in adults with dyslexia.

Start date and time
14 December 2018 14:30
End date and time
14 December 2018 15:30
PhD candidate
Desiree Capel
Sequential learning, domain generality, and developmental dyslexia
PhD supervisor(s)
Prof. dr. F.N.K. Wijnen
Dr. E.H. de Bree