Can we learn to learn? The influence of procedural working-memory training on rapid instructed-task-learning
- 94 Downloads
Humans have the unique ability to efficiently execute instructions that were never practiced beforehand. In this Rapid Instructed-Task-Learning, not-yet-executed novel rules are presumably held in procedural working-memory (WM), which is assumed to hold stimulus-to-response bindings. In this study, we employed a computerized-cognitive training protocol targeting procedural WM to test this assumption and to examine whether the ability to rapidly learn novel rules can itself be learned. 175 participants were randomly assigned to one of three groups: procedural WM training (involving task-switching and N-back elements, all with novel rules; Shahar and Meiran in PLoS One 10(3):e0119992, 2015), active-control training (adaptive visual-search task), and no-contact control. We examined participants’ rapid instructed-task-learning abilities before and after training, by administrating 55 novel choice tasks, and measuring their performance in the first two trials (where participants had no practice). While all participants showed shorter reaction-times in post vs. pretest, only participants in the procedural WM training group did not demonstrate an increased error rate at posttest. Evidence accumulation modelling suggested that this result stems from a reduction in decision threshold (the amount of evidence that needs to be gathered to reach a decision), which was more pronounced in the control groups; possibly accompanied by an increased drift-rate (the rate of evidence accumulation) only for the training group. Implication are discussed.
This work was supported by a research grant from the US-Israel Binational Science Foundation Grant #2015-186 To Nachshon Meiran, Michael W. Cole, and Todd S. Braver.
Compliance with ethical standards
The study was approved by the departmental ethics committee.
Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
- De Houwer, J., Hughes, S., & Brass, M. (2017). Toward a unified framework for research on instructions and other messages: An introduction to the special issue on the power of instructions. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 81, 1–3. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neubiorev.2017.04.020.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Forstmann, B. U., Ratcliff, R., & Wagenmakers, E.-J. (2016). Sequential sampling models in cognitive neuroscience: Advantages, applications, and extensions. Annual Review of Psychology. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-psych-122414-033645.Google Scholar
- JASP Team. (2017). JASP (Version 0.8.1.2). https://jasp-stats.org/.
- Kane, M. J., Conway, A. R. A., Miura, T. K., & Colflesh, G. J. H. (2007). Working memory, attention control, and the n-back task: A question of construct validity. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 33(3), 615–622. https://doi.org/10.1037/0278-73188.8.131.525.Google Scholar
- Meiran, N., Pereg, M., Givon, E., Danieli, G., & Shahar, N. (2016). The role of working memory in rapid instructed task learning and intention-based reflexivity: An individual differences examination. Neuropsychologia, 90, 180–189. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2016.06.037.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Meiran, N., Pereg, M., Kessler, Y., Cole, M. W., & Braver, T. S. (2015b). Reflexive activation of newly instructed stimulus–response rules: Evidence from lateralized readiness potentials in no-go trials. Cognitive, Affective, & Behavioral Neuroscience, 15(2), 365–373. https://doi.org/10.3758/s13415-014-0321-8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Oberauer, K., Souza, A. S., Druey, M. D., & Gade, M. (2013). Analogous mechanisms of selection and updating in declarative and procedural working memory: Experiments and a computational model. Cognitive Psychology, 66(2), 157–211. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cogpsych.2012.11.001.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Redick, T. S., Shipstead, Z., Harrison, T. L., Hicks, K. L., Fried, D. E., Hambrick, D. Z., … Engle, R. W. (2013). No evidence of intelligence improvement after working memory training: A randomized, placebo-controlled study. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 142(2), 359–379. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0029082.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Shahar, N., Pereg, M., Teodorescu, A. R., Moran, R., Karmon-Presser, A., & Meiran, N. (2018). Formation of abstract task representations: Exploring dosage and mechanisms of working memory training effects. Cognition, 181, 151–159. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cognition.2018.08.007.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Wilhelm, O., & Oberauer, K. (2006). Why are reasoning ability and working memory capacity related to mental speed? An investigation of stimulus–response compatibility in choice reaction time tasks. European Journal of Cognitive Psychology, 18(1), 18–50. https://doi.org/10.1080/09541440500215921.CrossRefGoogle Scholar