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Biol Psychol. 2013 Feb;92(2):169-78. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsycho.2012.11.003. Epub 2012 Nov 29.

Errorless and errorful learning of face-name associations: an electrophysiological study.

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  • 1Department of Neurology, University of Lübeck, Ratzeburger Allee 160, 23538 Lübeck, Germany.


The advantage of errorless learning over errorful learning is associated with the avoidance of errors during learning. Errorful learning challenges the executive control system as erroneous items compete with correct items during retrieval. In an event-related potential (ERP) study, face-name associations learned in errorless or errorful mode were contrasted during retrieval. Learning mode was manipulated by the number of distracters. This modulation resulted in best performances after errorless learning followed by medium and high conflict errorful learning but lost its advantage over time. Within stimulus-locked ERPs, the N250 and the N400f components were associated with successful retrieval. The N250 was also driven by learning mode. Within response-locked ERPs, the error-related negativity (ERN) was modulated by correctness. The error-positivity (Pe) to erroneous responses was modulated by learning mode. The study reveals an initial advantage of errorless over errorful learning, which diminishes over time. The neurocognitive findings are discussed in light of conflict and error-likelihood models.

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