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Psychological Research

, Volume 83, Issue 1, pp 132–146 | Cite as

Can we learn to learn? The influence of procedural working-memory training on rapid instructed-task-learning

  • Maayan PeregEmail author
  • Nitzan Shahar
  • Nachshon Meiran
Original Article
  • 94 Downloads

Abstract

Humans have the unique ability to efficiently execute instructions that were never practiced beforehand. In this Rapid Instructed-Task-Learning, not-yet-executed novel rules are presumably held in procedural working-memory (WM), which is assumed to hold stimulus-to-response bindings. In this study, we employed a computerized-cognitive training protocol targeting procedural WM to test this assumption and to examine whether the ability to rapidly learn novel rules can itself be learned. 175 participants were randomly assigned to one of three groups: procedural WM training (involving task-switching and N-back elements, all with novel rules; Shahar and Meiran in PLoS One 10(3):e0119992, 2015), active-control training (adaptive visual-search task), and no-contact control. We examined participants’ rapid instructed-task-learning abilities before and after training, by administrating 55 novel choice tasks, and measuring their performance in the first two trials (where participants had no practice). While all participants showed shorter reaction-times in post vs. pretest, only participants in the procedural WM training group did not demonstrate an increased error rate at posttest. Evidence accumulation modelling suggested that this result stems from a reduction in decision threshold (the amount of evidence that needs to be gathered to reach a decision), which was more pronounced in the control groups; possibly accompanied by an increased drift-rate (the rate of evidence accumulation) only for the training group. Implication are discussed.

Notes

Funding

This work was supported by a research grant from the US-Israel Binational Science Foundation Grant #2015-186 To Nachshon Meiran, Michael W. Cole, and Todd S. Braver.

Compliance with ethical standards

The study was approved by the departmental ethics committee.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Psychology and Zlotowski Center for NeuroscienceBen-Gurion University of the NegevBeer-ShevaIsrael

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