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16-01-2018 | Original Article | Uitgave 1/2020

Psychological Research 1/2020

Feature codes in implicit sequence learning: perceived stimulus locations transfer to motor response locations

Psychological Research > Uitgave 1/2020
Hilde Haider, Sarah Esser, Katharina Eberhardt


An important question in implicit sequence learning research is how the learned information is represented. In earlier models, the representations underlying implicit learning were viewed as being either purely motor or perceptual. These different conceptions were later integrated by multidimensional models such as the Dual System Model of Keele et al. (Psychol Rev 110(2):316–339, 2003). According to this model, different types of sequential information can be learned in parallel, as long as each sequence comprised only one single dimension (e.g., shapes, colors, or response locations). The term dimension, though, is underspecified as it remains an open question whether the involved learning modules are restricted to motor or to perceptual information. This study aims to show that the modules of the implicit learning system are not specific to motor or perceptual processing. Rather, each module processes an abstract feature code which represents both response- and perception-related information. In two experiments, we showed that perceiving a stimulus-location sequence transferred to a motor response-location sequence. This result shows that the mere perception of a sequential feature automatically leads to an activation of the respective motor feature, supporting the notion of abstract feature codes being the basic modules of the implicit learning system. This result could only be obtained, though, when the task instructions emphasized the encoding of the stimulus-locations as opposed to an encoding of the color features. This limitation will be discussed taking into account the importance of the instructed task set.

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