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Repetition learning is neither a continuous nor an implicit process


Musfeld, Philipp; Souza, Alessandra S; Oberauer, Klaus (2023). Repetition learning is neither a continuous nor an implicit process. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 120(16):e2218042120.

Abstract

Learning advances through repetition. A classic paradigm for studying this process is the Hebb repetition effect: Immediate serial recall performance improves for lists presented repeatedly as compared to nonrepeated lists. Learning in the Hebb paradigm has been described as a slow but continuous accumulation of long-term memory traces over repetitions [e.g., Page & Norris, Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B 364, 3737–3753 (2009)]. Furthermore, it has been argued that Hebb repetition learning requires no awareness of the repetition, thereby being an instance of implicit learning [e.g., Guérard et al., Mem. Cogn. 39, 1012–1022 (2011); McKelvie, J. Gen. Psychol. 114, 75–88 (1987)]. While these assumptions match the data from a group-level perspective, another picture emerges when analyzing data on the individual level. We used a Bayesian hierarchical mixture modeling approach to describe individual learning curves. In two preregistered experiments, using a visual and a verbal Hebb repetition task, we demonstrate that 1) individual learning curves show an abrupt onset followed by rapid growth, with a variable time for the onset of learning across individuals, and that 2) learning onset was preceded by, or coincided with, participants becoming aware of the repetition. These results imply that repetition learning is not implicit and that the appearance of a slow and gradual accumulation of knowledge is an artifact of averaging over individual learning curves.

Abstract

Learning advances through repetition. A classic paradigm for studying this process is the Hebb repetition effect: Immediate serial recall performance improves for lists presented repeatedly as compared to nonrepeated lists. Learning in the Hebb paradigm has been described as a slow but continuous accumulation of long-term memory traces over repetitions [e.g., Page & Norris, Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B 364, 3737–3753 (2009)]. Furthermore, it has been argued that Hebb repetition learning requires no awareness of the repetition, thereby being an instance of implicit learning [e.g., Guérard et al., Mem. Cogn. 39, 1012–1022 (2011); McKelvie, J. Gen. Psychol. 114, 75–88 (1987)]. While these assumptions match the data from a group-level perspective, another picture emerges when analyzing data on the individual level. We used a Bayesian hierarchical mixture modeling approach to describe individual learning curves. In two preregistered experiments, using a visual and a verbal Hebb repetition task, we demonstrate that 1) individual learning curves show an abrupt onset followed by rapid growth, with a variable time for the onset of learning across individuals, and that 2) learning onset was preceded by, or coincided with, participants becoming aware of the repetition. These results imply that repetition learning is not implicit and that the appearance of a slow and gradual accumulation of knowledge is an artifact of averaging over individual learning curves.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of Psychology
Dewey Decimal Classification:150 Psychology
Scopus Subject Areas:Health Sciences > Multidisciplinary
Language:English
Date:18 April 2023
Deposited On:28 Nov 2023 15:56
Last Modified:29 Feb 2024 02:54
Publisher:National Academy of Sciences
ISSN:0027-8424
OA Status:Hybrid
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2218042120
  • Content: Published Version
  • Language: English
  • Licence: Creative Commons: Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)