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Learning complex sequences: No role for observation?

Kelly, Steve and Burton, A. (2001) Learning complex sequences: No role for observation? Psychological Research, 65 (1). pp. 15-23. ISSN 0340-0727

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Two experiments examined performance in a sequence learning task. Participants were trained on a repeating sequence which was presented as a visual display and learning was measured via the increase in reaction time to respond to a new sequence. Some participants made a response to each stimulus while others merely observed the sequence. In Experiment 1 participants responding to the display via a keypress showed learning, but those merely observing did not. Five possible reasons for the failure to find observational learning were considered and the Experiment 2 attempted to resolve these. This second experiment confirmed the findings of Experiment 1 in a non-spatial sequence display using a cover story which encouraged attention to the display but not rule-search strategies. The results are discussed in relation to applied and theoretical aspects of implicit learning.