Rapid instructed task learning (but not automatic effects of instructions) is influenced by working memory load

Maayan Pereg, Nachshon Meiran

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations

Abstract

The ability to efficiently perform actions immediately following instructions and without prior practice has previously been termed Rapid Instructed Task Learning (RITL). In addition, it was found that instructions are so powerful that they can produce automatic effects, reflected in activation of the instructions in an inappropriate task context. RITL is hypothesized to rely on limited working memory (WM) resources for holding not-yet implemented task rules. Similarly, automatic effects of instructions presumably reflect the operation of task rules kept in WM. Therefore, both were predicted to be influenced by WM load. However, while the involvement of WM in RITL is implicated from prior studies, evidence regarding WM involvement in instructions-based automaticity is mixed. In the current study, we manipulated WM load by increasing the number of novel task rules to be held in WM towards performance in the NEXT paradigm. In this task, participants performed a series of novel tasks presented in mini-blocks, each comprising a) instructions of novel task rules; b) a NEXT phase measuring the automatic activation of these instructed rules, in which participants advance the screen using a key-press; and c) a GO phase in which the new rules are first implemented and RITL is measured. In three experiments, we show a dissociation: While RITL (rule implementation) was impaired by increased WM load, the automatic effects of instructions were not robustly influenced by WM load. Theoretical implications are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0217681
JournalPLoS ONE
Volume14
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Jun 2019

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