Mechanisms and constraints underlying implicit sequence learning



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Our ability to learn about sequences of events allows us to perceive melody in music, to coordinate the movement of our bodies, and to understand spoken language. Much of this sequential behavior proceeds outside of our conscious awareness. In this dissertation, I consider two questions: 1. What is the nature of the processes underlying our implicit sequence learning behavior? 2. To what degree does sequential behavior in different domains and tasks rely on similar underlying mechanisms? A cross section of current theories of sequential learning are evaluated in their ability to account for human learning studies drawn from both serial reaction time (SRT) and statistical word learning tasks. Five novel experiments are reported which differentiate between competing theories concerning the mechanisms underlying implicit sequence learning. A view emerges which describes implicit sequence learning as a relatively simple and limited process with a memory substrate utilizing distinct spatial codes for events in time as opposed to aggregate context.