Experimental Brain Research

, Volume 235, Issue 6, pp 1689–1700 | Cite as

Explicit instruction of rules interferes with visuomotor skill transfer

  • Kanji Tanaka
  • Katsumi Watanabe
Research Article


In the present study, we examined the effects of explicit knowledge, obtained through instruction or spontaneous detection, on the transfer of visuomotor sequence learning. In the learning session, participants learned a visuomotor sequence, via trial and error. In the transfer session, the order of the sequence was reversed from that of the learning session. Before the commencement of the transfer session, some participants received explicit instruction regarding the reversal rule (i.e., Instruction group), while the others did not receive any information and were sorted into either an Aware or Unaware group, as assessed by interview conducted after the transfer session. Participants in the Instruction and Aware groups performed with fewer errors than the Unaware group in the transfer session. The participants in the Instruction group showed slower speed than the Aware and Unaware groups in the transfer session, and the sluggishness likely persisted even in late learning. These results suggest that explicit knowledge reduces errors in visuomotor skill transfer, but may interfere with performance speed, particularly when explicit knowledge is provided, as opposed to being spontaneously discovered.


Sequential learning Transfer Explicit Implicit Instruction 



This work was supported by a Grant-in-Aid for Young Scientists (20727086) to KT and CREST, Japan Science and Technology Agency to KW. The preliminary results of the present study were presented in the 34th annual meeting of the Cognitive Science Society: Tanaka, K., & Watanabe, K. (2012) Effects of explicit knowledge on transfer of visuomotor sequence learning. In N. Miyake, D. Peebles, & R. P. Cooper (Eds.), Proceedings of the 34th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society, 1036–1041. Austin, TX: Cognitive Science Society. ISBN 978-0-9768318-8-4.

Author contributions

All authors developed the study concept and contributed to the study design. Testing and data collection were performed by K. Tanaka. He also performed the data analysis and interpretation under the supervision of K. Watanabe and drafted the manuscript, and K. Watanabe provided critical revisions. All authors approved the final version of the manuscript for submission.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Science and EngineeringWaseda UniversityShinjukuJapan
  2. 2.Research Center for Advanced Science and TechnologyThe University of TokyoTokyoJapan
  3. 3.Japan Society for the Promotion of ScienceTokyoJapan

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