Probabilities in implicit learning

Philip Tseng, Tzu Yu Hsu, Ovid J.L. Tzeng, Daisy L. Hung, Chi Hung Juan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


The visual system possesses a remarkable ability in learning regularities from the environment. In the case of contextual cuing, predictive visual contexts such as spatial configurations are implicitly learned, retained, and used to facilitate visual searchöall without one's subjective awareness and conscious effort. Here we investigated whether implicit learning and its facilitatory effects are sensitive to the statistical property of such implicit knowledge. In other words, are highly probable events learned better than less probable ones even when such learning is implicit? We systematically varied the frequencies of context repetition to alter the degrees of learning. Our results showed that search efficiency increased consistently as contextual probabilities increased. Thus, the visual contexts, along with their probability of occurrences, were both picked up by the visual system. Furthermore, even when the total number of exposures was held constant between each probability, the highest probability still enjoyed a greater cuing effect, suggesting that the temporal aspect of implicit learning is also an important factor to consider in addition to the effect of mere frequency. Together, these findings suggest that implicit learning, although bypassing observers' conscious encoding and retrieval effort, behaves much like explicit learning in the sense that its facilitatory effect also varies as a function of its associative strengths.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)822-829
Number of pages8
Issue number7
StatePublished - 2011


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