Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Implicit Learning as an Ability

Kaufman, S. B. DeYoung, C. G., Gray, J. R., Jimenes, L., Brown, J. & Mackintosh, N. (2010). Implicit learning as an ability. Cognition, 116(30), 321-340.

Implicit learning involves automatically detecting regularities in our environment. Implicit learning happens largely unintentionally and without awareness. To date, the bulk of research done on implicit learning has not considered individual differences to be of importance. Rather, any individual differences on relevant measures have been considered “noise” caused by error or unexplained variance. This view contrasts with thinking in the area of explicit learning, the conscious effort to learn material. In explicit learning tasks, individual differences are considered a meaningful source of variance. Kaufman et al. aimed to provide evidence indicating that implicit learning is actually an ability that does indeed have meaningful individual differences. 

Based on the past literature, the authors hypothesized that traditional views of intelligence, working memory, and executive attention are all associated with explicit learning, whereas processing speed, intuition, openness, and impulsivity are positively associated with implicit learning.  The authors of the present study assessed their hypotheses by looking at correlations between individual differences in implicit learning, and tests of each of these cognitive and personality variables. Participants underwent three testing sessions. They began by completing a serial reaction time task containing probabilistic patterns, to measure implicit learning, and then were subjected to a battery of tests to measure all of the afore mentioned variables. Significant associations were found between the implicit learning measure and measures related to verbal analogical reasoning, processing speed, and components of self-reported personality. No correlations, on the other hand, were found between the implicit learning measure and measures of general intelligence, working memory, or executive attention. Interestingly, a positive correlation was found between implicit learning and some measures of academic performance.

These findings support the idea that individual differences in implicit learning could constrain learning and performance more broadly. 

Blogger: Alisha Johnson, Alisha is an honours thesis student working with Dr. Lisa Archibald