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Brain Sci. 2012, 2(4), 769-789; doi:10.3390/brainsci2040769

Defining the Parameters of Incidental Learning on a Serial Reaction Time (SRT) Task: Do Conscious Rules Apply?

Brain, Behaviour and Cognition Group, Department of Psychology, Sheffield Hallam University, Collegiate Crescent Campus, Sheffield, S10 2BP, UK
Received: 20 September 2012 / Revised: 29 October 2012 / Accepted: 12 December 2012 / Published: 17 December 2012
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There is ongoing debate about the contribution of explicit processes to incidental learning, particularly attention, working memory and control mechanisms. Studies generally measure explicit process contributions to incidental learning by comparing dual- to single-task sequence learning on some variant of a Serial Reaction Time (SRT), usually adopting an auditory tone counting task as the secondary task/memory load. Few studies have used secondary working memory stimuli with the SRT task, those that have typically presented secondary stimuli, before, after or between primary task stimuli. Arguably, this design is problematic because participants may potentially “switch” attention between sequential stimulus sources limiting the potential of both tasks to simultaneously index shared cognitive resources. In the present study secondary Visual and Verbal, memory tasks were temporally synchronous and spatially embedded with the primary SRT task for Visual and Verbal dual-task conditions and temporally synchronous but spatially displaced for Visual-Spatial and Verbal-Spatial Above/Below conditions, to investigate modality specific contributions of visual, verbal and spatial memory to incidental and explicit sequence learning. Incidental learning scores were not different as an effect of condition but explicit scores were. Explicit scores significantly and incrementally diminished from the Single-task through Visual-Spatial Below conditions; percentage accuracy scores on secondary tasks followed a significant corresponding pattern suggesting an explicit learning/secondary memory task trade-off as memory demands of tasks increased across condition. Incidental learning boundary conditions are unlikely to substantially comprise working memory processes.
Keywords: incidental; implicit; Serial Reaction Time (SRT); explicit; learning incidental; implicit; Serial Reaction Time (SRT); explicit; learning
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY) which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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Barker, L.A. Defining the Parameters of Incidental Learning on a Serial Reaction Time (SRT) Task: Do Conscious Rules Apply? Brain Sci. 2012, 2, 769-789.

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