Using immediate memory span to measure implicit learning

Jeffrey D. Karpicke, David B. Pisoni

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

34 Scopus citations


To avoid some conceptual and methodological pitfalls found in traditional artificial grammar learning tasks, we developed a new method of measuring implicit learning using immediate memory span. Subjects were presented with sequences generated by an artificial grammar and were asked to reproduce the patterns by pressing buttons on a response box. After exposure to these sequences, subjects showed selective improvement in immediate memory span for novel sequences governed by the same grammar. Individual differences in implicit learning covaried with measures of auditory digit span. Subjects with greater immediate memory processing capacity were better able to learn and subsequently exploit the information available in grammatical sequences. Our results are consistent with a detailed episodic coding framework in which implicit learning occurs as an incidental by-product of explicit task performance. Although subjects encode highly detailed information about specific instances, they use different aspects of this information to accomplish different task-specific demands.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)956-964
Number of pages9
JournalMemory and Cognition
Issue number6
StatePublished - Sep 2004

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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

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