Irrelevant response effects improve serial learning in serial reaction time tasks

J Exp Psychol Learn Mem Cogn. 2001 Mar;27(2):470-82. doi: 10.1037/0278-7393.27.2.470.


Tones were introduced into a serial reaction time (SRT) task to serve as redundant response effects. Experiment 1 showed that the tones improved serial learning with a 10-element stimulus sequence, but only if the tone effects were mapped onto the responses contingently. Experiment 2 demonstrated that switching to noncontingent response-effect mapping increased SRT only when participants had previously adapted to contingent response-effect mapping. In Experiment 3, the beneficial influence of contingent tone effects on serial learning occurred only when there was sufficient time between the response effects and the next imperative stimuli. The results are discussed in terms of the ideomotor principle. It is claimed that an internal representation of the to-be-produced tone effects develops and gains control over the execution of the response sequence.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Association Learning*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual*
  • Pitch Discrimination*
  • Psychomotor Performance
  • Reaction Time*
  • Serial Learning*