Age and Time Effects on Implicit and Explicit Learning

M.M.N. Verneau, J. van der Kamp, G.J.P. Savelsbergh, M.P. de Looze

    Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


    Study Context: It has been proposed that effects of aging are more pronounced for explicit than for implicit motor learning. The authors evaluated this claim by comparing the efficacy of explicit and implicit learning of a movement sequence in young and older adults, and by testing the resilience against fatigue and secondary tasking after learning. It was also examined whether explicit learning in older adults can be promoted by alleviating time constraints during learning.Methods: The alternating serial reaction time task (ASRTT) was used. Experiment 1 compared the benefits of receiving full instructions about the stimulus sequence relative to receiving no instructions in young (20-25 years) and older (50-65 years) adults during retention and during transfer to fatigue and secondary task conditions. Experiment 2 alleviated time constraints during the initial bouts of practice with full instructions.Results: Experiment 1 indicated that the older adults learned on the ASRTT and achieved similar performance as young adults when no instructions were given. In contrast to the young adults, learning was not superior in older adults who received full instructions compared with those who did not. Experiment 2 indicated that alleviating time constraints allowed some of the older adults to gain from instruction but only under relatively low time constraints, but there was no retention with rigorous time constraints. Conclusion: Explicit learning, but not implicit learning, declines in older adults. This is partly due to older adults difficulties to apply explicit knowledge. Less rigorous time constraints can help to ameliorate some of these difficulties and may induce levels of explicit learning in older adults that will result in superior performance compared with implicit learning. Implicit learning did occur under time constraints that prevented explicit learning. © Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)477-511
    JournalExperimental Aging Research
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 2014


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