The role of working memory capacity in implicit and explicit sequence learning of children: Differentiating movement speed and accuracy

Femke van Abswoude*, Tim Buszard, John van der Kamp, Bert Steenbergen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


This study investigated the role of working memory capacity on implicit and explicit motor sequence learning in young children. To this end, a task was utilized that required a gross motor response (flexing the elbow) and that could differentiate between movement speed (i.e., reaction time and movement time) and movement accuracy. Children aged 7–9 years practiced a serial reaction time task that involved the production of a fixed sequence of elbow flexions of prescribed magnitude across two consecutive days. Children in the explicit group were informed about the presence of the sequence and were shown this sequence, while children in the implicit group were not made aware of the sequence. Additionally, children's verbal and visuospatial working memory capacity was assessed. Results of day 1 regarding movement speed revealed no evidence of sequence learning for either group, but movement accuracy results suggested that sequence learning occurred for the implicit group. For both groups, only improvements in movement accuracy were consolidated on day 2, indicating both general and sequence specific learning. Working memory capacity did not correlate with learning in either of the groups. Children in the explicit group accumulated more sequence knowledge compared to children in the implicit group, but this knowledge did not translate to more or better sequence learning. The minimal differences found between the implicit and explicit condition and the absence of a role for working memory capacity add to the increasing evidence that the observed differences between implicit and explicit sequence learning in adults may be less distinct in children.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102556
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
JournalHuman Movement Science
Early online date12 Dec 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2020



  • Explicit learning
  • Implicit learning
  • Motor skill
  • Sequence learning
  • Working memory capacity

Cite this