Strategic behavior without awareness? Effects of implicit learning in the Eriksen flanker paradigm

Rodica Ghinescu, Todd R. Schachtman, Michael A. Stadler, Monica Fabiani, Gabriele Gratton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This experiment investigated whether subjects' selection and use of strategies in detecting a target letter in a flanker task requires intention. Subjects' expectancies for compatible and incompatible trials (trials on which the response to the flanker stimulus was consistent or inconsistent with the target response) were manipulated by presenting cues that signaled the occurrence of these types of trials. Three groups of subjects received explicit, partially explicit, or implicit instructions about the meaning of the cues. By the end of the experiment, all the groups were able to select and use strategies based on the cues to improve their performance. However, this strategy selection developed slowly with practice in the latter two groups, whereas it was present from the outset in the first group. In addition, forced choice tests performed after the experiment showed that the subjects in the implicit condition could not intentionally indicate which stimuli were most likely to follow a given cue. Thus, the data suggest that the selection of strategies occurred outside the subjects' awareness, and without their intention.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)197-205
Number of pages9
JournalMemory and Cognition
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)

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