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Conscious Cogn. 2013 Mar;22(1):203-11. doi: 10.1016/j.concog.2012.12.001. Epub 2013 Jan 12.

Unconsciously learning task-irrelevant perceptual sequences.

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School of Psychology and Cognitive Science and Shanghai Key Laboratory of Magnetic Resonance, East China Normal University, Shanghai, China.


We demonstrated unconscious learning of task-irrelevant perceptual regularities in a Serial Reaction Time (SRT) task in both visual and auditory domains. Participants were required to respond to different letters ('F' or 'J', experiment 1) or syllables ('can' or 'you', experiment 2) which occurred in random order. Unbeknownst to participants, the color (red, green, blue or yellow) of the two letters or the tone (1-4) of the syllables varied according to certain rules. Reaction times indicated that people indeed learnt both the color and tonal regularities indicating that task-irrelevant sequence structure can be learned perceptually. In a subsequent prediction test of knowledge of the color or tonal cues using subjective measures, we showed that people could acquire task irrelevant knowledge unconsciously.

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