Academic journal article Memory & Cognition

Awareness in Contextual Cuing with Extended and Concurrent Explicit Tests

Academic journal article Memory & Cognition

Awareness in Contextual Cuing with Extended and Concurrent Explicit Tests

Article excerpt

The term contextual cuing refers to improved visual search performance with repeated exposure to a configuration of objects. Participants use predictive cues-derived from learned associations between target locations and the spatial arrangement of the surrounding distractors in a configuration-to efficiently guide search behavior. Researchers have claimed that contextual cuing can occur implicitly. The present experiments examined two explicit measures-generation and recognition. In Experiment 1, we found that contextual cuing information was consciously retrievable when the number of trials used in a generation test was increased, and the results also suggested that the shorter tests that were used previously were not statistically powerful enough to detect a true awareness effect. In Experiment 2, concurrent implicit and explicit (generation and recognition) tests were employed. At a group level, learning did not precede awareness. Although contextual cuing was evident in participants who were selected post hoc as having no explicit awareness, and for specific configurations that did not support awareness, we argue that awareness may nevertheless be a necessary concomitant of contextual cuing. These results demonstrate that contextual cuing knowledge is accessible to awareness.

There has been an accumulation of research over the past 20 or so years that appears to suggest that human learning and memory are organized into at least two distinct systems-one of which is explicit, or declarative, and one of which is implicit, or procedural. The former system allows conscious recall of facts or events, whereas the latter influences performance unconsciously (Squire, 1992). Central to this systems view of learning and memory is a very large body of evidence indicating that the implicit system can be isolated in appropriate preparations-that is, in tasks in which learning proceeds independently of the individual's awareness of the learned properties of the materials. Such "implicit learning" tasks-which have been studied for many decades (Thorndike, 1931)-therefore have an important reciprocal relationship to memory systems theories.

Despite the enormous number of studies attempting to demonstrate implicit learning, it is fair to say that these have been consistently dogged by controversy. A common cycle of research begins with a new and apparently compelling instance of implicit learning, only for this instance to be undermined and challenged by later research. Examples include Thorndike's (1931) own studies of verbal operant conditioning (Dulany, 1961), Reber's artificial grammar experiments (Dulany, Carlson, & Dewey, 1984), learning in the Iowa gambling task (Maia & McClelland, 2004), studies of human conditioning (Lovibond & Shanks, 2002), and studies of reaction times (RTs) to sequentially structured stimuli (Perruchet & Amorim, 1992).

Chun and colleagues reported results from studies using a spatial contextual cuing paradigm (Chun & Jiang, 1998)-a visual search task in which participants are shown displays containing a set of 12 letter stimuli and are required to detect a target stimulus (a letter T) within the subset of distractor stimuli (11 letter Ls), and which represents a new addition to the body of evidence for a dual-systems model of learning and memory. In contextual cuing experiments, the location of the target in half of the displays appears repeatedly with the same arrangement of the abstractors surrounding it. Participants indirectly express evidence of implicitly learning to use the context of distractors as a cue for the location of the target by making faster responses to displays with this association, in comparison with responses made to novel displays that do not contain covariance between the location of the target and the surrounding distractor stimuli. The results of these experiments suggest that the contextual cuing effect occurs implicitly and outside of awareness, because when given a direct test of explicit knowledge-such as having to predict or generate the location of a missing target during a generation test (Chun & Jiang, 2003) or making a recognition judgment (Chun & Jiang, 1998; Chun & Phelps, 1999; Howard, Howard, Dennis, Yankovich, & Vaidya, 2004; Manns & Squire, 2001; Park, Quinlan, Thornton, & Reder, 2004)-participants perform no better than they would have through random guessing. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.