How does Prior Knowledge Affect Implicit and Explicit Concept Learning?

, and . Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology 61 (4): 601--624 (April 2008)


Two experiments investigated the effect of prior knowledge on implicit and explicit learning. Implicit as opposed to explicit learning is sometimes characterized as unselective or purely statistical. During training, one group of participants was presented with category exemplars whose features could be tied together by integrative knowledge, whereas another group saw category exemplars with unrelated feature combinations. Half of the participants in each group learned these categories under a secondary-task condition (meant to discourage explicit learning), and the remaining half performed the categorization task under a single-task condition (meant to favour explicit learning). In a test phase, participants classified only the individual features of the training exemplars. Secondary- as opposed to single-task conditions impaired explicit but not implicit knowledge (as determined by subjective measures). Importantly, prior knowledge resulted in increased amounts of both implicit and explicit knowledge.

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