SRT and ASRT: Similar Tasks Tapping Distinct Learning Mechanisms?

AbstractThe Serial Reaction Time (SRT) and the Alternating Serial Reaction Time (ASRT) tasks are widely used assessments of sequence learning (SL). In the SRT task, the dependencies involve adjacent elements whereas in the ASRT task they involve nonadjacent elements, due to the insertion of random elements into the pattern. We tested college students (N = 74) to explore whether these two tasks relied on similar underlying learning mechanisms, while also examining associations between task performance and nonverbal fluid intelligence, visual-spatial working memory, and sentence processing ability. There was no correlation across the two SL tasks (r = –.18), suggesting distinct learning mechanisms. Only ASRT task was associated with nonverbal intelligence, visual-spatial working memory, and sentence comprehension. The results run counter to the claim that the ASRT relies only on implicit learning mechanisms presumed to be unrelated to executive functioning or general intelligence.

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