Do measures of explicit learning actually measure what is being learnt in the serial reaction time task?
Psyche 2 (20) (1995)
Studies of implicit learning have shown that individuals exposed to a rule-governed environment often learn to exploit 'rules' which describe the structural relationship between environmental events. While some authors have interpreted such demonstrations as evidence for functionally separate implicit learning systems, others have argued that the observed changes in performance result from explicit knowledge which has been inadequately assessed. In this paper we illustrate this issue by considering one commonly used implicit learning task, the Serial reaction time task, and outline what we see as an important problem associated with each of the commonly used methods used to assess explicit knowledge. This is that each measure requires a form of response which is dependent on the subjects having some knowledge of the serial-order of the sequence. We argue that such methods, or more specifically their analyses, seriously underestimate other sources of knowledge, which may be available to subjects during their performance of the SRT task. In support of this argument we demonstrate that subjects' serial-order knowledge can, in principle, be independent of subjects' knowledge of the statistical structure of the sequence, and we propose an alternative method for analysing performance on the Generate task which avoids this problem
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