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Yuhong Jiang, Albert Leung; Implicit learning of ignored visual context. Journal of Vision 2004;4(8):188. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/4.8.188.
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The relationship between attention and consciousness is one of the longest standing debates in cognitive psychology. Extensive evidence suggests that conscious perception and explicit memory are attention-dependent, but implicit processes may occur without attention. For example, implicit learning of a repeated sequence of key presses can occur when attention is taken away by a secondary task. But not all implicit learning tasks are exempted from the influence of attention. Using “contextual cueing”, we test whether repetition of ignored information can be learned implicitly. Subjects search for a target in one color (e.g., white) among two sets of distractors — an attended set (i.e., white distractors) and an ignored set (i.e., black distractors). When the attended set is repeated and is predictive of the target location, search speed is enhanced, showing contextual cueing. But when the ignored set is repeated and is predictive of the target location, search speed is unaffected. This suggests that contextual cueing, an implicit visual learning, depends on attention. However, during the transfer test, when the attended set and ignored set switch colors, the previously ignored set, now attended, immediately facilitates performance. In contrast, the previously attended set, now ignored, no longer enhances search speed. We conclude that the expression of visual implicit learning depends on attention, but latent learning of repeated information does not.
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