Quantifying transfer after perceptual-motor sequence learning: how inflexible is implicit learning?

Daniel J. Sanchez, Eric N. Yarnik, Paul J. Reber*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Studies of implicit perceptual-motor sequence learning have often shown learning to be inflexibly tied to the training conditions during learning. Since sequence learning is seen as a model task of skill acquisition, limits on the ability to transfer knowledge from the training context to a performance context indicates important constraints on skill learning approaches. Lack of transfer across contexts has been demonstrated by showing that when task elements are changed following training, this leads to a disruption in performance. These results have typically been taken as suggesting that the sequence knowledge relies on integrated representations across task elements (Abrahamse, Jiménez, Verwey, & Clegg, Psychon Bull Rev 17:603–623, 2010a). Using a relatively new sequence learning task, serial interception sequence learning, three experiments are reported that quantify this magnitude of performance disruption after selectively manipulating individual aspects of motor performance or perceptual information. In Experiment 1, selective disruption of the timing or order of sequential actions was examined using a novel response manipulandum that allowed for separate analysis of these two motor response components. In Experiments 2 and 3, transfer was examined after selective disruption of perceptual information that left the motor response sequence intact. All three experiments provided quantifiable estimates of partial transfer to novel contexts that suggest some level of information integration across task elements. However, the ability to identify quantifiable levels of successful transfer indicates that integration is not all-or-none and that measurement sensitivity is a key in understanding sequence knowledge representations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)327-343
Number of pages17
JournalPsychological Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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