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05-08-2019 | Original Article

The role of differential outcomes-based feedback on procedural memory

Psychological Research
Víctor Martínez-Pérez, Luis J. Fuentes, Guillermo Campoy
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In categorization tasks, two memory systems may be involved in the learning of categories: one explicit and rule-based system and another implicit and procedure-based system. Learning of rule-based categories relies on some form of explicit reasoning, whereas procedural memory underlies information–integration category-learning tasks, in which performance is maximized only if information of two (or more) dimensions is integrated. The present study aimed at investigating the role of how feedback is administered, whether differential or non-differential, in procedural learning. An information–integration category-learning task was designed, where the to-be-categorized stimuli differed in two dimensions. Participants were randomly assigned to two groups: one group received the reinforcers for correct categorizations differentially, one for each category (the differential outcomes procedure, DOP), and the other group received the reinforcers randomly (the non-differential outcomes procedure, NOP). The participants of the DOP group showed better procedural learning in the categorization task, compared to the NOP group. Moreover, the analysis of learning strategies revealed that more participants developed more optimal strategies in the DOP group than in the NOP group. These results extend the benefits of the differential outcomes-based feedback to non-declarative memory tasks and help better understand the role of feedback in procedural learning.

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