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Surfing the implicit wave

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Implicit learning was investigated in two experiments involving a complex motor task. Participants were required to balance on a stabilometer and to move the platform on which they were standing to match a constantly changing target position. Experiment 1 examined whether a segment (middle third) that was repeated on each trial would be learned without participants becoming aware of the repetitions (i.e., implicitly). The purpose of Experiment 2 was to determine the relative effectiveness of explicit versus implicit learning. Here, two identical segments were presented on each trial (first and last thirds), with participants only being informed that one segment (either first or last) was repeated. The acquisition results from both experiments indicated large improvements in performance across 4 days of practice, with performance on the repeated segments being generally superior to that on the non-repeated segment. On the retention tests on Day 5, errors on the repeated segment(s) were smaller than those on the random segment(s). Furthermore, in Experiment 2, the errors on the repeated-known segment, although smaller than those on the random segment, were larger than those on the repeated-unknown segment. Interview results indicated that participants were not consciously aware that a segment was repeated unless they were informed. These results suggest that implicit learning can occur for relatively complex motor tasks and that withholding information concerning the regularities is more beneficial than providing this information.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: August 1, 2001


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