Poster D100, Monday, March 27, 8:00 – 10:00 am, Pacific Concourse
Investigating Individual Differences in Implicit Sequence Learning
Kelsey R. Thompson1, Paul J. Reber1; 1Northwestern University
Implicit learning researchers commonly assume that individual differences in implicit learning are small or nonexistent due to its relatively automatic nature and the hypothesis that it depends on evolutionarily older neural mechanisms. In contrast, research on the type of real-world skill learning that implicit learning tasks aim to measure often assumes the opposite—individual differences in innate talent do influence learning (Campitelli & Gobet, 2011). This suggests that implicit learning may vary across individuals in a similar way to measures like fluid intelligence or working memory capacity. Recent findings of state effects on implicit learning (e.g., mood, depletion, motivation) challenge strong forms of the idea that implicit learning is fully automatic. Here, two experiments are reported that investigate whether implicit learning ability acts like a trait measure across individuals by examining test-retest reliability with an implicit learning task. The SISL (Serial Interception Sequence Learning) task measures implicit learning of perceptual-motor sequences that can be repeatedly assessed within individuals and is highly resistant to explicit discovery of the sequence. Across both experiments, the intercorrelations of the sequence-specific learning measure across repeated assessments was very low (mean r < .1), suggesting little evidence for trait-like differences in implicit learning ability. By contrast, general task performance measures (overall speed/accuracy) were highly correlated (mean r > .9). Thus, although individuals did reliably differ on their general ability to perform the task, sequence-specific learning did not appear to be a reliable trait difference, implying that low levels of individual differences are present in implicit learning ability.
Topic Area: LONG-TERM MEMORY: Skill learning