Repository logo

Controlled and automatic processing in implicit learning




Mong, Heather Marie Skeba, author
Seger, Carol, advisor
DeLosh, Ed, committee member
Volbrecht, Vicki, committee member
Draper, Bruce, committee member

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


This dissertation proposes a new approach for measuring the cognitive outcomes of learning from implicit tasks: measure the controlled and automatic processes at use by participants after training, and focus on how controllable the acquired knowledge is under different learning conditions as measured through a process-dissociation procedure. This avoids the uncertainty of any explicit knowledge test's ability to exhaustively measure the contents of consciousness, and provides a different way to view the cognitive changes due to implicit task training. This dissertation includes three experiments using two different implicit learning tasks (serial response reaction time [SRTT] and contextual cuing) to test how controllable the knowledge gained from these tasks is. The first two experiments used the SRTT, in which participants have to make the appropriate corresponding spatial response when presented with a visual stimulus in one of four locations. The trained information is a repeating 12-item response series, which participants are not typically told is repeating. These experiments found use of both controlled and automatic processes by participants. When participants were cued that a sequence was repeating (Experiment 2), there was significantly less use of controlled processes than when participants were not cued into the sequence repetition, suggesting a shift away from controlled processes when explicitly learning the repeating information. The third experiment used the contextual cuing visual search task, which requires participants to rapidly locate a target (T) in a field of distracters (L). Participants become faster at locating the target within repeating spatial configurations across training. Experiment 3 also found use of both controlled and automatic processes after training. However, cuing the repetition did not change either controlled or automatic process estimates, suggesting that control over acquired knowledge is not affected by intent to learn. Altogether, the process dissociation approach provides process estimates congruent with existing theoretical explanations of the two implicit learning tasks, and are a useful addition to the techniques available to study implicit learning.


2012 Spring.
Includes bibliographical references.

Rights Access


contextual cuing
implicit learning
information processing
process dissociation
sequence learning


Associated Publications