Authors: Atheer Odah Massarwe , Noyli Nissan and Yafit Gabay.

Article: Atypical Reinforcement Learning in Developmental Dyslexia..

Publication: Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society (Cambridge University Press). 1-11 2021 | DOI: 10.1017/S1355617721000266

[Full Text]



Objectives:According to the Procedural Deficit Hypothesis, abnormalities in corticostriatal pathways could account for the language-related deficits observed in developmental dyslexia. The same neural network has also been implicated in the ability to learn contingencies based on trial and error (i.e., reinforcement learning [RL]). On this basis, the present study tested the assumption that dyslexic individuals would be impaired in RL compared with neurotypicals in two different tasks.

Methods:In a probabilistic selection task, participants were required to learn reinforcement contingencies based on probabilistic feedback. In an implicit transitive inference task, participants were also required to base their decisions on reinforcement histories, but feedback was deterministic and stimulus pairs were partially overlapping, such that participants were required to learn hierarchical relations.


Across tasks, results revealed that although the ability to learn from positive/negative feedback did not differ between the two groups, the learning of reinforcement contingencies was poorer in the dyslexia group compared with the neurotypicals group. Furthermore, in novel test pairs where previously learned information was presented in new combinations, dyslexic individuals performed similarly to neurotypicals.

Conclusions:Taken together, these results suggest that learning of reinforcement contingencies occurs less robustly in individuals with developmental dyslexia. Inferences for the neuro-cognitive mechanisms of developmental dyslexia are discussed.

Tagged as: adult dyslexia, procedural learning, and reinforcement learning


Massarwe, A., Nissan, N., & Gabay, Y. (2021). Atypical Reinforcement Learning in Developmental Dyslexia. Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society, 1-11. doi:10.1017/S1355617721000266

Excerpts from Full Text / Notes:

From Discussion:

During the acquisition phase, participants with dyslexia did not differ significantly from the control group in the number of trials required to reach criterion and performance did not differ significantly between the two groups during the first phase of learning. ….However, results from the post-acquisition test phase indicated reduced learning of reinforcement contingencies in the dyslexia group compared with the control group. This pattern was confined to trained items, as the ability to generalize from repeated exposure to negative/positive outcomes was comparable across the two groups.

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