, Volume 22, Issue 1, pp 95-110

Effects of presentation rate and individual differences in short-term memory capacity on an indirect measure of serial learning


In three experiments, we studied the relation between degree of implicit learning and two aspects of short-term memory: (l) the activation level of the to-be-learned information, and (2) individual differences in short-term memory capacity. In all the experiments, we used the Nissen and Bullemer (1987) serial reaction time paradigm or a modification thereof. The effects of activation level were assessed by experimentally manipulating the rate of presentation. Individual differences in short-term memory capacity were assessed via traditional span measures. The experiments demonstrated that the rate of presentation reliably affected an indirect measure of learning (i.e., response time) under both incidental and intentional task instructions and under both single-task and dual-task conditions. Short-term memory span was reliably related to the indirect measure of learning only in some experimental conditions. The findings represent important constraints for models of implicit serial learning and are discussed within a general framework for understanding implicit learning and memory.

This research was supported, in part, by a Research Council Grant from the graduate division of the University of Missouri, Columbia. to P A. F
Nelson Cowan, David Geary, Douglas Hintunan, Lynn Okagaki, Michael Stadler, Daniel Wpliagham, and an anonymous reviewer for insightful comments on earlier drafts of flit article.