2014-11-28Zeitschriftenartikel DOI: 10.3389/fpsyg.2014.01388
Transferring control demands across incidental learning tasks – stronger sequence usage in serial reaction task after shortcut option in letter string checking
After incidentally learning about a hidden regularity, participants can either continue to solve the task as instructed or, alternatively, apply a shortcut. Past research suggests that the amount of conflict implied by adopting a shortcut seems to bias the decision for vs. against continuing instruction-coherent task processing. We explored whether this decision might transfer from one incidental learning task to the next. Theories that conceptualize strategy change in incidental learning as a learning-plus-decision phenomenon suggest that high demands to adhere to instruction-coherent task processing in Task 1 will impede shortcut usage in Task 2, whereas low control demands will foster it. We sequentially applied two established incidental learning tasks differing in stimuli, responses and hidden regularity (the alphabet verification task followed by the serial reaction task, SRT). While some participants experienced a complete redundancy in the task material of the alphabet verification task (low demands to adhere to instructions), for others the redundancy was only partial. Thus, shortcut application would have led to errors (high demands to follow instructions). The low control demand condition showed the strongest usage of the fixed and repeating sequence of responses in the SRT. The transfer results are in line with the learning-plus-decision view of strategy change in incidental learning, rather than with resource theories of self-control.
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