Spatial attention and implicit sequence learning: evidence for independent learning of spatial and nonspatial sequences

J Exp Psychol Learn Mem Cogn. 1996 Mar;22(2):350-64. doi: 10.1037//0278-7393.22.2.350.


This research investigated whether regular spatial orienting sequences can be learned implicitly and independently of response requirements. In a new version of a serial response task introduced by M. J. Nissen and P. Bullemer (1987) participants had to discriminate between objects that could occur at different locations. Independent sequences determined the succession of locations and objects. Even participants who were not aware of any regularities exhibited evidence for learning of both sequences (Experiment 1). Experiment 2 showed that the joint learning of spatial and object sequences was as efficient as learning of single sequences and that it even occurred when learning required memory for past sequence elements and attention was blocked through a secondary tone-counting task. Results are consistent with the idea that independent systems may exist for the implicit acquisition of spatial and nonspatial regularities.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attention*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Recall
  • Orientation*
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual*
  • Psychomotor Performance
  • Reaction Time
  • Serial Learning*