Implicitly learning when to be ready: From instances to categories

Wouter Kruijne*, Riccardo M Galli, Sander A Los

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
28 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

There is growing appreciation for the role of long-term memory in guiding temporal preparation in speeded reaction time tasks. In experiments with variable foreperiods between a warning stimulus (S1) and a target stimulus (S2), preparation is affected by foreperiod distributions experienced in the past, long after the distribution has changed. These effects from memory can shape preparation largely implicitly, outside of participants' awareness. Recent studies have demonstrated the associative nature of memory-guided preparation. When distinct S1s predict different foreperiods, they can trigger differential preparation accordingly. Here, we propose that memory-guided preparation allows for another key feature of learning: the ability to generalize across acquired associations and apply them to novel situations. Participants completed a variable foreperiod task where S1 was a unique image of either a face or a scene on each trial. Images of either category were paired with different distributions with predominantly shorter versus predominantly longer foreperiods. Participants displayed differential preparation to never-before seen images of either category, without being aware of the predictive nature of these categories. They continued doing so in a subsequent Transfer phase, after they had been informed that these contingencies no longer held. A novel rolling regression analysis revealed at a fine timescale how category-guided preparation gradually developed throughout the task, and that explicit information about these contingencies only briefly disrupted memory-guided preparation. These results offer new insights into temporal preparation as the product of a largely implicit process governed by associative learning from past experiences.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)552-562
Number of pages11
JournalPsychonomic Bulletin & Review
Volume29
Early online date28-Oct-2021
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Apr-2022

Cite this