Evidence of Encapsulated Learning Systems in an Alternating Serial Reaction Time Task
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A model of learning systems that has received wide acknowledgment is that promulgated by Squire (1992). The model describes explicit and implicit learning systems as being encapsulated and operating in parallel. This paper aimed to investigate if implicit procedural sequence learning could be affected by explicit learning processes in an alternating serial reaction time task (ASRTT). The ASRTT involved visual-stimuli appearing in one of four spatial-locations placed horizontally across a computer screen. The stimuli followed a four-unit repeating sequence which alternated with random trials (1r2r4r3). This meant certain sets of three sequential trials or triplets appeared at a high frequency (HFT) whilst others appeared at a low frequency. Sequence learning is represented by improved performance of response time and accuracy when responding to the third trial of a HFT compared to a LFT. This is called the triplet-type effect. The experiment also investigated if implicit sequence learning could be facilitated by observation alone. Results revealed that the level of implicit sequence learning occurred to the same extent, whether or not subjects intentionally tried to learn the repeating sequence during the training phase. The level of implicit sequence learning was also equivalent between participants that observed the visual stimuli in the training session and those that responded to it. These findings indicate that implicit sequence learning occurs independently of explicit learning processes with implicit sequence learning also being facilitated by observation alone. This study provides evidence that supports the theory of encapsulated learning systems.