Temporal effects in sequence learning

Abstract

Through the use of double task conditions, the sequence learning (SL) paradigm offers unique opportunities to study the relationships between learning and attention. In their original study, Nissen & Bullemer (1987) argued that a secondary tone-counting task prevents SL because it exhausts participants’ attentional resources. Other authors have instead suggested that the detrimental effects of tone-counting are due to scheduling conflicts between performing the main and secondary tasks rather than to attentional load. Frensch & Miner (1994), for instance, suggested that the secondary task impairs sequence learning because it lengthens the response-to-stimulus interval (RSI) and hence makes it less likely for relevant contingencies to be represented together in short-term memory, — a condition for learning. Stadler (1995), on the other hand, argued that the secondary task introduces variability in the RSI and disrupts the organization of the sequence into chunks. Further, according to Willingham, Greenberg & Cannon Thomas (1997) manipulation of the RSI influences performance but not sequence learning..

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