Exposing sequence learning in a double-step task.

L. Oostwoud Wijdenes, E. Brenner, J.B.J. Smeets

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Is it possible to learn to perform a motor sequence without awareness of the sequence? In two experiments, we presented participants with the most elementary sequence: an alternation between two options. We used a double-step pointing task in which the final position of the target alternated between two quite similar values. The task forced participants to start moving before the final target was visible, allowing us to determine participants’ expectations about the final target position without explicitly asking them. We tracked participants’ expectations (and thus motor sequence learning) by measuring the direction of the initial part of the movement, before any response to the final step. We found that participants learnt to anticipate the average size of the final step, but that they did not learn the sequence. In a second experiment, we extended the duration of the learning period and increased the difference in size between the target position changes. Some participants started anticipating the step size in accordance with the sequence at some time during the experiment. These participants reported having noticed the simple sequence. The participants who had not noticed the sequence did not move in anticipation of the sequence. This suggests that participants who did not learn this very simple sequence explicitly also did not learn it implicitly.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1701-1712
JournalExperimental Brain Research
Publication statusPublished - 2016


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