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Title: Attentional processes in implicit sequence learning
Author: Rowland, L.
Awarding Body: UCL (University College London)
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2006
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Recent conceptualisations of human learning and memory have drawn a distinction between conscious (explicit) and unconscious (implicit) processing modes (e.g., Clark & Squire, 1998). In line with this dichotomy, researchers have suggested that implicit learning is accomplished by automatic mechanisms that acquire information incidentally (Jimenez, 2003). Concordant with classical definitions of automaticity (Schneider & Shiffrin, 1977), the present thesis investigates whether implicit learning can be distinguished by its propensity to operate without placing demands on attentional resources and by its independence from selectional control. In contrast to previous studies, it was found that learning in the probabilistic serial reaction time (SRT) task is impaired by the presence of a secondary task designed to consume attentional resources (Experiment 1 cf. Jimenez & Mendez, 1999), and that selective attention during encoding is necessary for learning about an incidental to-be-ignored sequence (Experiments 6, 7 & 9 cf. Cock, Berry, & Buchner, 2002). Thus, these results do not support the existence of an automatic implicit learning system. Additionally, Experiment 1 presents evidence that SRT learning is conscious. However, experimental procedures that interfered with input stages of SRT learning - by introducing irrelevant distractors into the display - revealed that implicit learning is highly resistant to disruption of the selection process (Experiments 2-5 & 9). Moreover, other experiments (Experiments 8 & 9) show that two complex probabilistic sequences can be learned simultaneously, which further indicates that such learning is robust in the presence of noisy input. Collectively, these findings are consistent with the view that implicit learning is subserved by a powerful incidental learning mechanism, yet, like explicit processes, requires attention and awareness to function optimally (St. John & Shanks, 1997).
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available