Passing thoughts on the evolutionary stability of implicit motor behaviour: Performance retention under physiological fatigue

Consciousness and Cognition 16 (2):456-468 (2007)
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Heuristics of evolutionary biology dictate that phylogenetically older processes are inherently more stable and resilient to disruption than younger processes. On the grounds that non-declarative behaviour emerged long before declarative behaviour, Reber argues that implicit learning is supported by neural processes that are evolutionarily older than those supporting explicit learning. Reber suggested that implicit learning thus leads to performance that is more robust than explicit learning. Applying this evolutionary framework to motor performance, we examined whether implicit motor learning, relative to explicit motor learning, conferred motor output that was resilient to physiological fatigue and durable over time. In Part One of the study a fatigued state was induced by a double Wingate Anaerobic test protocol. Fatigue had no affect on performance of participants in the implicit condition; whereas, performance of participants in the explicit condition deteriorated significantly. In Part Two of the study a convenience sample of participants was recalled following a one-year hiatus. In both the implicit and the explicit condition retention of performance was seen and, contrary to the findings in Part One, so was resilience to fatigue. The resilient performance in the explicit condition after one year may have resulted from forgetting or from consolidation of declarative knowledge as implicit memories. In either case, implicit processes were left to more effectively support motor performance



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