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1.  Manipulating attentional load in sequence learning through random number generation 
Advances in Cognitive Psychology  2012;8(2):179-195.
Implicit learning is often assumed to be an effortless process. However, some artificial grammar learning and sequence learning studies using dual tasks seem to suggest that attention is essential for implicit learning to occur. This discrepancy probably results from the specific type of secondary task that is used. Different secondary tasks may engage attentional resources differently and therefore may bias performance on the primary task in different ways. Here, we used a random number generation (RNG) task, which may allow for a closer monitoring of a participant’s engagement in a secondary task than the popular secondary task in sequence learning studies: tone counting (TC). In the first two experiments, we investigated the interference associated with performing RNG concurrently with a serial reaction time (SRT) task. In a third experiment, we compared the effects of RNG and TC. In all three experiments, we directly evaluated participants’ knowledge of the sequence with a subsequent sequence generation task. Sequence learning was consistently observed in all experiments, but was impaired under dual-task conditions. Most importantly, our data suggest that RNG is more demanding and impairs learning to a greater extent than TC. Nevertheless, we failed to observe effects of the secondary task in subsequent sequence generation. Our studies indicate that RNG is a promising task to explore the involvement of attention in the SRT task.
PMCID: PMC3376889  PMID: 22723816
implicit learning; attention; serial reaction time task; random number generation task; tone counting task

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