On the development of procedural knowledge

J Exp Psychol Learn Mem Cogn. 1989 Nov;15(6):1047-60. doi: 10.1037//0278-7393.15.6.1047.


Amnesic patients demonstrate by their performance on a serial reaction time task that they learned a repeating spatial sequence despite their lack of awareness of the repetition (Nissen & Bullemer, 1987). In the experiments reported here, we investigated this form of procedural learning in normal subjects. A subgroup of subjects showed substantial procedural learning of the sequence in the absence of explicit declarative knowledge of it. Their ability to generate the sequence was effectively at chance and showed no savings in learning. Additional amounts of training increased both procedural and declarative knowledge of the sequence. Development of knowledge in one system seems not to depend on knowledge in the other. Procedural learning in this situation is neither solely perceptual nor solely motor. The learning shows minimal transfer to a situation employing the same motor sequence.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Concept Formation*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory*
  • Mental Recall*
  • Practice, Psychological
  • Psychomotor Performance*
  • Reaction Time*
  • Retention, Psychology
  • Serial Learning*
  • Transfer, Psychology