Sanchez, D. J., Gobel, E. W., & Reber, P. J. (2010). Performing the unexplainable: Implicit task performance reveals individually reliable sequence learning without explicit knowledge. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 17(6), 790-796.
Memory-impaired patients express intact implicit perceptual-motor sequence learning, but it has been difficult to obtain a similarly clear dissociation in healthy participants. When explicit memory is intact, participants acquire some explicit knowledge and performance improvements from implicit learning may be subtle. Therefore, it is difficult to determine whether performance exceeds what could be expected based on the concomitant explicit knowledge. Using a challenging new sequence learning task, robust implicit learning is found in healthy participants with virtually no associated explicit knowledge. Participants trained on a repeating sequence randomly selected from a set of five. On a performance test of all five sequences, performance was best on the trained sequence and two-thirds of the participants exhibited individually reliable improvement (by χ2). Participants could not reliably indicate which sequence had been trained by either recognition or recall. Only by expressing their knowledge via performance were participants able to indicate which sequence they had learned.