Oculomotor anticipation reveals a multitude of learning processes underlying the serial reaction time task

Amir Tal, Ayala Bloch, Haggar Cohen-Dallal, Or Aviv, Simone Schwizer Ashkenazi, Moshe Bar, Eli Vakil

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations

Abstract

Sequence learning is the cognitive faculty enabling everyday skill acquisition. In the lab, it is typically measured in speed of response to sequential stimuli, whereby faster responses are taken to indicate improved anticipation. However, response speed is an indirect measure of anticipation, that can provide only limited information on underlying processes. As a result, little is known about what is learned during sequence learning, and how that unfolds over time. In this work, eye movements that occurred before targets appeared on screen in an ocular serial reaction time (O-SRT) task provided an online indication of where participants anticipated upcoming targets. When analyzed in the context of the stimuli preceding them, oculomotor anticipations revealed several simultaneous learning processes. These processes influenced each other, as learning the task grammar facilitated acquisition of the target sequence. However, they were dissociable, as the grammar was similarly learned whether a repeating sequence inhabited the task or not. Individual differences were found in how the different learning processes progressed, allowing for similar performance to be produced for different latent reasons. This study provides new insights into the processes subserving sequence learning, and a new method for high-resolution study of it.

Original languageEnglish
Article number6190
JournalScientific Reports
Volume11
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2021
Externally publishedYes

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