Intervals between stimuli and/or responses have significant influences on sequential learning. In the present study, we investigated whether transfer would occur even when the intervals and the visual configurations in a sequence were drastically changed so that participants did not notice that the required sequences of responses were identical. In the experiment, two (or three) sequential button presses comprised a "set," and nine (or six) consecutive sets comprised a "hyperset." In the first session, participants learned either a 2×9 or 3×6 hyperset by trial and error until they completed it 20 times without error. In the second block, the 2×9 (3×6) hyperset was changed into the 3×6 (2×9) hyperset, resulting in different visual configurations and intervals between stimuli and responses. Participants were assigned into two groups: the Identical and Random groups. In the Identical group, the sequence (i.e., the buttons to be pressed) in the second block was identical to that in the first block. In the Random group, a new hyperset was learned. Even in the Identical group, no participants noticed that the sequences were identical. Nevertheless, a significant transfer of performance occurred. However, in the subsequent experiment that did not require explicit trial-and-error learning in the first session, implicit transfer in the second session did not occur. These results indicate that learning with explicit elaboration strengthens the implicit representation of the sequence order as a whole; this might occur independently of the intervals between elements and enable implicit transfer.
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