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Implicit Learning: the Influence of Attention, Goal, Emotion and Age

Author: HuangHuiXin
Tutor: LiuDianZhi
School: Suzhou University
Course: Higher Education
Keywords: implicit learning attention goal emotion ERP
CLC: B842.3
Type: PhD thesis
Year: 2011
Downloads: 109
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People can make use of environmental regularities in certain aspects of their behavior even without being aware of it, and this is an important characteristic in human cognition. In 1967 Reber named this ability as implicit learning, and the realization of it was considered the most encouraging development in cognitive science. Until now it is still a hot research topic.There were two themes in this paper. The first was to explore the influence of attention, goal and emotion on implicit learning. Three experiments were completed respectively using double-dimension serial reaction task which included color and alphabet as background or operating stimulus, which meant that when one kind of stimulus is under attention and the other would be out of attention. Additional test phase was added, so not only the stimulus under attention but also the background sequence could be explored in detail. It’s the first time that attention was combined with goal and emotion, and in this condition the experiment environment come nearer the natural learning environment and expanded our understanding of the factors that may influence implicit learning.The second theme was to examine the brain mechanism supporting implicit learning by the comparison of young and old people’s learning. Aging education is an important part of continuing education in higher education. China’s population is ageing and successful ageing has been emphasized by more and more researchers. Exploring the brain function through the comparison of the young and the old in implicit learning conformed to the trend of research on ageing study, and it was of great practical significance for ageing education and successful ageing. Studies confirmed that implicit learning is generally well preserved in old age. To investigate the neural basis triplet-learning task without manual motor sequence(people respond only to the last target event in a series of discrete, 3-event sequences or triplets)was adopted and first combined with ERP technique in this study, and the results showed age-related difference between young and old adults.Specifically, this research can be concluded as follows:1. Random background sequence in non-attention state impaired the learning of operating sequence, but compared with no-background-color group, regular-background-color sequence had no positive effect on the learning of operating sequence. While for the background color, processing occurred whether it was regular or not, which revealed that voluntary attention was not necessary to implicit learning.2. Unconscious achievement goal priming significantly promoted the learning of color and alphabet sequence in attention state,including average reaction speed and the amount of implicit learning; While for the color and alphabet sequence in non-attention state, only the reaction speed of alphabet sequence was greatly improved by unconscious achievement goal priming. The results not only showed the positive effect of the unconscious achievement goal priming, but also confirmed its guiding function on attention allocation, which let the subjects be more concentrated on current operating task and ignore the background stimulus. It can also be infered that attention was needed for unconscious achievement goal priming to play a role in learning behavior.3. Subjects responded faster under negative emotion priming condition than that of positive emotion priming condition. Although there was no statistical difference between above two groups, the amount of implicit learning under negative emotion priming condition indicated its advantage over that under positive emotion priming condition. This meant that negative emotion had promoting effect on sequence learning compared with positive emotion. As for the background sequence, No significant difference occurred on the reaction time and the amount of implicit learning, Which revealed the guiding function of the emotion on attention allocation. Just as goal priming in experiment 2, it let the subjects be more concentrated on current operating task and ignore the background stimulus. It can be infered similarly that attention was also needed for unconscious emotion priming to play a role in learning behavior.4. Both age groups learned the high-frequency triplets implicitly and basically had the same degree of learning. Age-related difference existed on the learning of low-frequency triplets. Specifically median RTs of young adults declined gradually while there was a rising in that of old adults, which meant old people’s learning ability on low-frequency triplets was not as good as that of young, and this was a kind of age-related attentional deficits. ERPs data suggested two age-related changes in neural activity. One is that brain activity occurred in more areas for old people, including the prefrontal area and even the whole brain; the other is the activity level was lower in the old. It could be infered that this reflected a kind of compensation for brain structure and function decline. This told us that ageing was a dynamic, adaptive process including both gain and loss.

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