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Explicit Learning of a Dynamic System with a Non-salient Pattern
We examine the hypothesis that a specific goal leads to implicit learning, whereas a nonspecific goal leads to explicit learning, even though the pattern to be learnt is non-salient. Subjects learned a dynamic control task (Berry & Broadbent, 1984). One group of subjects had a specific control goal, the second group had a non-specific pattern-search goal, and the third group had both goals. On measures of learning (control performance, prediction, and general questions), the non-specific group learnt explicitly, outperforming the other two groups on all learning measures. The specific group performed next best on control performance and prediction questions but performed very poorly on general questions. The dual-goal group performed poorly on all measures. Non-specific subjects predicted well on both familiar and unfamiliar situations. Specific-goal subjects predicted well on familiar situations, regardless of whether their previous response had been correct or incorrect. Dual-goal subjects predicted well only on familiar correct situations. We conclude that the non-specific group learned through explicit hypothesis testing, the specific group learned through a mixture of explicit problem solving and implicit instance learning, and the dual-goal group learned instances. Results are discussed in terms of dual-space models of problem solving and hypothesis testing and in terms of implicit instance learning. We consider how the choice of learning goal affects the cognitive processes used during learning and suggest that having subjects learn the same information implicitly or explicitly is potentially useful for drawing clearer distinctions between implicit and explicit modes of learning.
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