Joint sequence learning

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We attempted to combine the research areas of joint action and implicit learning to provide an explanation for the underlying mechanisms of mirror neurons in joint tasks. Therefore, a shared SRT task in a joint condition was conducted. Joint effects in implicit learning or processing speed were not found. A shared task representation could lead to confusion of competence, a phenomenon explained by ideomotor theory.

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Joint sequence learning

  1. 1. Implicit sequence learning in a joint action task Psychologisch ontwerpen 2 Course number: 290201 Date: 23.01.2009 Abstract This study was conducted to determine the difference in implicit learning between people who were alone or in a social context. This was measured with a serial reaction time tasks (SRT) where the participants had to react to two out of four different stimuli with their right or left hand. But what they did not know is that the stimuli were part of a hidden sequence. Participants were either alone (single condition) or together (joint condition). In both conditions a gradual increase in speed indicated that both groups learned the sequence and that importantly there was a marginally significant difference between how the two groups learned. Additionally, we found that participants in the joint condition sitting on the right were faster with their right hand and participants sitting on the left side were faster with their left hand. Post-hoc analysis showed that participants seated on the left were faster and error rates of participants with their right hand were lower. In conclusion, the difference between singles and joints seem minuscule but the effects of seating position are profound. Key terms Implicit learning, Joint action, Sequence learning, SRT task Ricarda Braukmann 0163066 Niels Lettinga 0151483 Dominic Portain 0163503 Jacek Sliwinski 0163619 Tutor: Jurjen van der Helden
  2. 2. University of Twente Introduction Making music in a band or playing ball with friends, are all very common and seemingly simple actions we accommodate in our daily lives. Yet few of us think or even marvel about how such a joint action is actually achieved and how it distinguishes from a task that we perform alone. There is no doubt that our actions are influenced by social contexts, e.g. people often change their opinion when confronted with social pressure (Asch, 1956). Zajonc (1965) described in his social facilitation theory that the presence of others influences the performance respectively to its difficulty, where subjects tend to perform better in simple tasks and worse in difficult tasks. Concerning our study, in which participants had to react to symbols on a screen by pressing the correct button, social facilitation predicts faster reactions if pressed during the presence of another person. Guerin (1993) attributed this effect due to the change of arousal and social comparison. Assuming that two participants are sitting next to each other performing an identical task, they tend to compete with each other for who will perform better, which also tends to increase the state of arousal. Performance is predicted to increase to a certain level of increased arousal, but decreases afterwards (Yerkes & Dodson, 1908). We did not expect that the participants in our study to reach that peak or even go beyond it because the task was not especially arousing for the participants. This encouraged our prediction that performance will be enhanced. But in spite of being able to make a prediction how the social context influenced performance in general, it is not quite clear how it affects learning in particular. The focus of this study lies on a learning and memory conceptualization that is known as the procedural or implicit system (Ashby & Ell, 2002; Squire, 1994), which appeals to a passive process of skill or information acquiring simply through exposure while unable to recall. This means that people learn although they are often not consciously aware of it. Just think of dancing. It is hard to explain when and where to execute a step, but with practice you will get a kind of feeling for it. To examine implicit learning in our study we made use of a serial reaction time task (Nissen & Bullemer, 1987). Participants had to react to different stimuli appearing on a screen. In our case one of four symbols were shown and the participants had to react by pressing the correct button. For the simple reason that responding occurred to one stimulus at a time, it became a Go/NoGo task. What the participants did not know is that there was a hidden sequence, a certain order of symbols. This is our learning sequence which we expected participants to learn. This will be measured by observing the reaction times through the repeated exposure of the sequence. We expected that learning will be implicit because they will not be conscious aware of the sequence’s existence. To determine the extent of implicit or explicit learning we used in addition to reaction times a recognition task, which was also used in prior studies (Willingham, Greeley & Bardone, 1993; Bird, Osman, Saggerson & Heyes, 2
  3. 3. 2005). On the recognition task three symbols were shown at a time, they were either fragments of the learning sequence or random stimuli, the participants were asked how familiar they seem to them. That means that if the reaction times would be faster to fragments of the learning sequence, but they are not evaluated as being more familiar, it indicated that the participant learned the sequence implicitly. This means that they are not consciously aware of the hidden learning sequence. H1: During the recognition task, parts of the sequence will be better recognized than random stimuli. After having evaluated the method for determining the amount of implicit learning, the next step was to determine if there was a difference in learning between a participant performing the task alone or with another participant. Acting in a social context is different from acting alone. Participants who performed the task alone are from now on called to perform in a “single condition” and those who accomplished the task together are called to be in a “joint condition”. As a definition of joint action we adopted the view of Sebanz, Bekkering & Knoblich (2006) who described it as a form of social interaction comprising at least two individuals coordinating their actions in space and time to achieve a goal by manipulating their environment. Its success depends on the abilities to share representations, predict actions and integrate predicted effects of one’s own and other’s actions. The term shared representations could be described as a mutual understanding of the perceived environment and the goals of a task. In our case the shared representation of the participants in the joint condition consisted of the control of the buttons and the goal to press them when the correct stimuli appeared on the screen. The success depended on the right prediction not only when to press their own buttons but also to predict when the other participant has to press their buttons, thereby improving the prediction of when to press their own buttons. A series of studies by Knoblich & Jordan (2002, 2003) showed that an unambiguous feedback about each other’s timing of action planning is crucial for an effective anticipatory action control and can be as important as internal signals. This emphasized the importance of a reliable prediction of what the joint effects of one own and another participant’s actions would be. We expected that this effect would become visible in a reduction of reaction times during the learning sequences. H2: In the joint condition, participants will learn faster than in the single condition. Recent studies showed that the forming of shared representations happened automatically, even if it would be more effective to ignore one another (Sebanz, Knoblich & Prinz, 2003; Sebanz, Knoblich, Stumpf & Prinz, 2005; Atmaca et al., 2005 in Sebanz, Bekkering & Knoblich, 2006). This phenomenon is explained by the assumption that observing an event that regularly results from one’s own actions induced the tendency to carry out this action. For example, not only the participants in the joint condition but also the investigator who is present to observe the participants would share the common representation, although not intentionally. Consequently, perceiving actions of others should activate the same representational structures that manage one’s own planning and control of these 3
  4. 4. actions. The simulation theory (Gallese & Goldman, 1999) explained that the capability to predict actions of others relied on the ability to simulate their actions because it relied on the same brain regions. According to Gallese (2006) and Newman-Norlund, van Schie, van Zuijlen & Bekkering (2007) these brain regions are called the human mirror neuron system. Cells in the mirror system fire not only if an individual performs an action, but also if the same action is being observed. Accordingly the cells in the mirror system will not only fire in the participant who is pressing a button but also in the other participant in the joint condition. Tsai, Kuo, Jing, Hung & Tzeng (2006) constructed a study concerning joint action quite similar to this one. He used a Go/NoGo task in three different conditions to determine the influence of social interaction. There are two main differences comparing this study to Tsai, et al. (2006). First, in the experiment of Tsai, et al. (2006) there were only two types of different stimuli compared to the four types in this study. Second, the stimuli were presented with equal possibility in three spatial positions, left, middle and right, in this study stimuli were only presented in the center. In Tsai, et al. (2006) reaction times of the middle stimuli were taken as a baseline to be subtracted from the reaction times of compatible and incompatible trials. In a compatible trial the spatial relationship between stimulus and response is correspondent, thus when the target stimulus appears on the same side as the response, hence the responding participant. In incompatible trials in contrast the spatial relationship between stimulus and response is non-correspondent, thus when the target stimulus appears on the opposite side as the response, hence the non-responding participant. This spatial stimulus-response compatibility is also known as the Simon-effect. Simon (1969) found that people react faster and more accurate when a stimulus appears in the same relative location as the response. He attributes this effect to an innate tendency to respond towards the source of the stimulus. Regarding the study of Tsai, et al. (2006) results showed that compatible trials do have significant faster reaction times than incompatible trials, which leads us to our third hypothesis. H3: The reaction times will be faster when the location of the participant is the same as that of the button that has to be pressed. 4
  5. 5. Method Participants 45 healthy volunteers (40 female and 5 male; mean age 20; range 18-27 years) with normal or corrected to normal vision were tested after having signed a written informed consent. Participants were tested for hand preference; all but one were right-handed. This experiment was approved by the local ethics committee. Stimuli and Reaction A black screen was presented for 1500ms. Afterwards, one of four stimuli (square, circle, star and triangle) was presented in the middle of the screen. Each symbol had a width of 20 mm and was presented on a 17’’ CRT computer screen. The stimuli were presented maximally for 1000 ms or until the correct response was given. The PC connected to the response boxes recorded all button timings together with the stimulus data. Participants were seated in a viewing distance of approximately 65 cm, which resulted in the stimuli to cover 1.7 degrees of the visual field. Participants were told to react as quickly as possible, and to minimize error rates. Participants had to react to different stimuli with their left or right hand. When a circle appeared the participant seated on the left had to press the left button on a response box. The correct response for when a star appeared was for the participant sitting on the left to press the right button on the response box. Accordingly, the participant seated on the right had to press the left button when a square appeared and the right button when a triangle appeared. Custom response boxes were labeled with drawings of the stimuli next to the according buttons. All of the labels were approximately 4 cm. The response box on the left seat position showed a circle label on the right side of the left button and a star label on the left side of the right button. This label showed a five-sided star instead of a four- sided star, as used as stimulus. On the right seat position, the response box showed a square label on the right side of the left button, and a triangle label on the left side of the right button. The buttons for the left response box were colored red; those for the right response box were colored green (see figure 1). These boxes were connected to the computer via the parallel port. The PC connected to the response boxes recorded all button presses together with the stimulus data.
  6. 6. Figure 1. This figure shows the boxes for the participants. The left box was for the participant sitting on the left and the right box was for the participant sitting on the right. For preparation, participants practiced the response with a small block of eight random items. In general, the following conditions counted as procedural errors: pressing the wrong button, reacting when no response was needed, and missing the response item longer than the reaction time of 1000 ms. In case of the wrong reaction, the current symbol remained on screen until the right button was pressed or the reaction time passed. The practice block was rehearsed until the performance was acceptable, then the procedure continued to the learning task. The stimuli during the learning blocks were part of a 12-item second-order conditional (SOC) sequence. This led to a smallest learning block of three subsequent stimuli, whereas the first two stimuli had to be sufficient and exclusive to predict the third one. Due to the second-order conditional sequence, two succeeding stimuli could not be the same (e.g. after a circle a different stimulus had to appeared). Different symbols were equally distributed between participants, where repetitions and reversals were prevented as much as possible to account for inhibition of return. However, a sequence of 12 symbols has to include at least one reversal – at this point at the▲▲ part. Each learning block was started with four randomly chosen stimuli to prevent sequence recognition during the beginning of all subsequent blocks. Each one of the eight blocks showed ten repetitions of the symbol sequence, resulting in 120 + 4 symbols per block. At
  7. 7. the end of each block, the number of errors was shown during a short pause of ten seconds. The learning task provided the basis for implicit learning. The symbol sequence during this part was shown as can be seen in figure 2. Figure 2. This figure shows the order of the sequence during the first 8 blocks. The participants on the left had to press with their left hand when a star appeared and with their right hand when a circle appeared. The participants on the right had to press with their left hand when a square appeared and with their right hand when a triangle appeared. After the eight learning blocks, two varied blocks of similar length followed. After each varied block, one block with the original sequence was inserted to provide a reference of measure. First, a “Switch” block (9th block) was presented, where reaction between the left and right hand was switched (see figure 3). This means that the order in which the stimuli appeared changes. Where in the original sequence a star appeared there would now be a circle and when a circle appeared there would now be a star. This was the same for triangles and squares. Where in the original sequence a triangle appeared there would now be a square and when a square appeared there would now be a triangle. Figure 3. This figure shows the order of the sequence during the Switch block. The participants on the left had to press with their left hand when a star appeared and with their right hand when a circle appeared. The participants on the right had to press with their left hand when a square appeared and with their right hand when a triangle appeared. To pose a reference to the “Switch” condition and to indicate how strong the change from learning to varied blocks would be in general, a “Random” block (11th block) was inserted. In this block, 124 symbols appeared in a pseudorandom manner (corrected for repetitions and reversals, evenly weighted between participants). Group conditions All experiments were split into two different conditions. First, the “joint” condition included two participants sitting in front of one monitor. To prevent communication between participants, especially hints about the sequence, one research assistant was seated in the same room. Participants
  8. 8. were subsequently asked not to talk or to ask questions during the test. The research assistant was very quiet and did not move to prevent a possible influence. The “single” condition included only one participant, seated on either the left or right chair. The response task for participant in the single condition was identical to the joint condition. To provide an equivalent task environment as that of the joint condition, the appropriate responses from the missing partner were provided by a computer program. The otherwise naturally occurring variances of the test partner, including RT decline, were hereby simulated by a prerecorded and statistically cleansed series of reaction times. All experiments took place in a quiet room with constant light conditions. All environmental variables, including the research assistant, remained constant over all trials and both conditions. Analysis We used repeated measured ANOVA to analyze our data. Therefore we had to take the Mauchlys sphericity test into account. We used the Greenhouse-Geisser adjusted p value if the significance level of Mauchlys test was lower than .05. However we still report the original degrees of freedom. We analyzed with Block and Button as within-subject variables and Group and Position as between-subject variables.
  9. 9. Results Block 1 to 8 First, we considered the learning effect of our experiment. This effect can be seen through the change in reaction times and errors during the different blocks. Figure 4 shows these changes for the two different groups. A gradual decrease in reaction time could be observed during the learning phase which includes Block one to eight (F (7,36)= 4.9, p < 0.001). This indicated that participants learned the sequence during the first eight blocks. Consistently there was also a gradual decrease in errors during this learning phase (F (7, 36) = 5.2, p < 0.001). Figure 4a. This figure shows the reaction times for the different Figure 4b. This figure shows the errors made in the different blocks separated for the “joint” and the “single” group. In this blocks. On the x-axis you see the different blocks of our figure, 1 stands for the single condition and 2 stands for the joint experiment. On the y-axis the errors made by the participants are condition. On the x-axis the different blocks of our experiment can shown. In block 1 to 8, block 10 and block 12 the participants had be seen. On the y-axis you can see the reaction times of the to react to the sequence, block 9 is the “Switch” block and block 11 participants given in milliseconds. In block 1 to 8, block 10 and is the “Random” block. block 12 the participants had to react to the normal sequence, block 9 is the “Switch” block and block 11 is the “Random” block. Because we hypothesized that the learning effect of the first eight blocks would be different for the two groups, we expected an interaction between this Block-effect and Group. We found that this effect was marginally significant (F (7, 36) = 1.8, p = 0.097). This confirmed our expectation that participants in a “joint” condition learn in a different way than do participants in a “single” condition. We expected that there would be a comparable effect in the errors the participants made. This was not confirmed (F (7, 36) = 0.72, p = 0.621). Therefore the change in reaction time differed in the “joint” and the “single” condition but the errors the participants made did not. Concerning the social
  10. 10. facilitation theory and the studies about shared representations we would expect the participants in the “joint” condition to react faster. As figure 4 shows, the differences between the two lines of reaction time did not vary that much and even the “singles” seemed to react faster than the participants in the “joint” condition. The greatest difference can be observed in the first two blocks. Therefore our second hypothesis is not confirmed. Besides these learning effects we expected an interaction effect of the seating position and the button the participants had to press. This suggestion was confirmed by our findings for the reaction times (F (1, 36) = 20.3, p < 0.001). The participants sitting on the right side were faster with their right hand. The participants sitting on the left side were faster with their left hand. This is shown in Figure 5. Hereby confirming our third hypothesis. Additionally, we found an interaction effect between Button and Position with the error findings (F (1, 36) = 4.1, p = 0.05). Comparable effects were also found in other studies. For example, the experiment of Tsai (2006) indicated that there is a relationship between the seating position of the participants and their reaction times. Figure 5. This figure shows the interaction effect between the seating position of the participant and the button that had to be pressed. In this figure, Button 1 stands for the left button and Button 2 stands for the right button. The x-axis describes the position of the participant and on the y-axis you can see the reaction times of the participants in milliseconds. The person sitting on the right was significantly faster with his right hand, the left participant with his left hand. Besides these expected effects we found two other main effects and three other interaction effects. The most important additional effect we found was the interaction effect between Button, Position and Group (F (1, 36) = 5.2, p = 0.028). This effect can be found in Figure 6a and 6b. Because we generally expected differences between the “joint” and “single” group we analyzed the Button- Position effect for both groups separately. We found that the interaction effect was only significant in the “joint” condition (F (1, 18) = 67.6, p < 0.001) but not in the “single” condition (F (1,18)= 1.481, p = 0.239). This indicated that in the “joint” condition the difference between the reaction times of the
  11. 11. left and right button is greater for the participant sitting on the right. We also found this interaction effect in the errors results. The difference between the errors on the left and right button is greater for the participants sitting on the right than on the left side. Through further analysis we found that this effect was only significant for the “single” condition (F (1, 36) = 5.1, p = 0.03). Figure 6a. This figure shows the interaction effect between Button Figure 6b. This figure shows the interaction effect between Button Position in the” single” group. In this figure, Button 1 stands for the and Position for the “joint” group. In this figure, Button 1 stands for left button and Button 2 stands for the right button. On the x-axis the left button and Button 2 stands for the right button. On the x- you see the seating position of the participants and on the y-axis axis you see the position of the participants and on the y-axis the their reaction times in milliseconds are shown. The fact that the two reaction times in milliseconds are shown. In comparison with figure lines are quite identically indicates that the effect is not significant 7a you can see that the lines differ from each other. Consistently we in this group which was confirmed through analysis. found that the effect was significant in this group. The first main effect we additionally found was the effect of Position with the reaction times. The participants seated on the left position reacted significantly faster than the participants on the right position (F (1, 36) = 5.7, p = 0.022). This effect was found during the entire experiment and was significant for both groups. There are several explanations for these findings. On the one hand this effect could be explained by the seating location, indicating the importance of where a participant is seated. On the other hand this could be an effect of the structure of the sequence, which is different for the participants. There was no such effect found with the errors. The second main effect we found was the effect of the Button with the errors (F (1, 36) = 9.3, p = 0.004). If participants had to press the right button they made fewer errors than if they had to press the left button. There are several explanations for this finding. This effect might be caused either by the structure of the sequence or because of the fact that all but one participant were right handed. Additionally, we found a moderately interaction effect between Button, Block and Group (F (7, 36) = 1.9, p = 0.077). This was only significant in the “single” condition (F (7, 18) = 3.0, p = 0.006). We also found an interaction effect between Button, Block, Position and Group (F (7, 36) = 2.1, p = 0.046) in the errors. Through further analyses this effect was not found to be significant for
  12. 12. any of the two groups. We assume that this could have been caused by some factor but that it does not have a relevant influence on our experiment. Finally, we found an interaction effect between Button and Block in the errors (F (7, 36) = 2.2, p = 0.035). Switch-Block effects First we found a main effect of the “Switch” block (F (3, 36) = 18.8, p < 0.001). We found a difference in the reaction times between the “Switch” block and the flanking blocks of the “Switch” block. The participants were slower reacting to the switched stimuli. We also found this main effect in the results of the errors (F (3, 36) = 4.02, p = 0.015). The participants significantly made more errors in the “Switch” block which indicates learning. The second main effect we found was an effect of Position with the reaction times (F (1, 36) = 9.4, p = 0.004). Similar to the Block effects we found that the person sitting on the left was faster. It is likely that this was caused by the same factors that we mentioned above in the paragraph about Block. Finally, we found an interaction effect between Position and the “Switch” block (F (3, 36) = 16.2, p < 0.001). The difference between the left and right “Switch” was greater for the participants sitting on the right than on the left. Further there were no effects of Group or Button found for the “Switch” block. Random-Block effects The difference in the reaction times between the “Random” block and the two flanking blocks of the “Random” block was significant (F (3, 36) = 19.6, p < 0.001) and on the errors (F (3, 36) = 3.9, p = 0.019). This confirms our hypothesis that the participants learned during the experiment. We also found a main effect of Position (F (1, 36) = 7.9, p = 0.008). Again the participant sitting on the left sight reacts faster than the person on the right. Additionally we found an interaction effect between “Random” and Position (F (3, 36) = 5.2, p = 0.009). The difference between the left and right “Random” was greater for the participants sitting on the right than on the left. Finally, we found a moderately significant interaction effect between Position and Group (F (1, 36) = 3.8, p = 0.06). Because we generally expected differences between the “single” and the “joint” condition we will discuss this further. Through further analysis we found that the effect was significant in the “single” condition (F (1, 18) =9.1, p = 0.07), but not in the “joint” condition. In the “single” condition, the participants sitting on the right were significantly slower.
  13. 13. Difference between Switch-Condition and Random- Condition We used the “Switch” block to determine how the participants learned and what it is that they exactly learn. Therefore a difference between the “Random” and the “Switch” would indicate that participants had learned when to react because in the “Switch” block the moment of reaction stayed the same for the participants only the button they had to press changed. This was not confirmed in our analysis. We found no significant difference between “Switch” and “Random” in either the reaction times (t (39) = 1.356, p = 0.183) or the errors (t (40) = -1.388, p = 0.173). This indicates that the participants did not learn a fixed scheme of responses, but reacted according to the stimuli.
  14. 14. Discussion The main focus of this study was to investigate the difference in learning alone and learning together with someone, a so called joint action. Comparing the participants in the “joint” and the “single” group, we found that the participants did learn in a different manner, although the difference was only marginally significant. We expected that people in the “joint” condition reacted faster according to earlier evidence from social facilitation theory. The difference we found can mainly be attributed to the first two of the eight blocks where the “singles” reacted faster than the “joints”. The overall differences presented in Figure 4 seemed not significant because the two lines representing the reaction times of both groups are quite similar. Furthermore, the fact that the “singles” were faster than the “joints” leads us to reject our hypothesis. Because our findings are only marginally significant we are inclined not to state that there are important differences between participants in the” joint” and “single” condition regarding the reaction times. This means that the process of learning is similar when learning alone or learning together with someone. Another point in our experiment was to test in what way participants learned. Therefore we integrated the “Random” and the “Switch” block. We found no differences between these two blocks. A difference between the “Random” and the “Switch” blocks would have indicated that participants had learned a fixed scheme of responses. In the “Switch” block the moment of reaction stayed the same for the participants, only the button they had to press had changed in respect to the prior sequence. We initially intended to include another sequence to measure the extend in which the participant learned not only when to push their own buttons, but also when the other participant had to push their buttons. This could be achieved if the participant reacted on the instant when the other participant had to react in the actual sequence. However, swapping the stimuli that had to be responded to by pushing a button on the right box with the left would have resulted in an exact copy of the original sequence, only shifted in time. Therefore, we did not include this sequence. For further experiments, we suggest that this sequence should be included in the experiment. Comparing the “Switch”, “Random” and the swapped sequence could indicate about how people learn and what they actually remember. This design could help to determine if participants do only learn “their” moment of response, or also the turns of their hands. It could even be possible they learned the reaction part of their partner. The second major finding of this experiment was the interaction of (seat) Position and Button, which indicated that the participants sitting on the right were faster with their right hand and the participants sitting on the left was faster with their left hand. These findings confirm our hypothesis
  15. 15. that reaction times will be faster when the location of the participant is the same as that of the button that has to be pressed. This effect is quite similar to the effect found by Simon (1969). It is also comparable to the study of Tsai, Kuo, Jing, Hung & Tzeng (2006) which is described in the introduction. The difference between the two groups concerning the interaction between Position and Button was not expected. We found that this effect was only significant for the participants in the “joint” condition. This indicates that, in the “joint” condition, the difference between the reaction times of the left and right button is greater for the participant sitting on the right. This could be attributed to the sequence which was different for the participants depending on the seat position, but that would not explain the absent significance for the “single” group. Another explanation could be the presence of the investigator, who was positioned on the left side in all the experiments and could have had a social influence on the participants. Again, this is not an adequate explanation, because this effect was not found in the “single” condition. These are mere suggestions, and more evidence is needed to make confident conclusions about the origin of this effect. Further post-hoc analysis showed that participants who were positioned on the left side were faster than participants who were positioned on the right side. This was found for both the single and the joint group. The influence of Position could be explained by two factors. First, the sequence might be harder for the person on the right. In our sequence, the participant sitting on the right had to react to a specific stimulus (▲). After that, the other participant had to give a response. Then, the participant on the right had to press the same button (▲) again. This was not the case for the participant sitting on the left. We assume that this property of the sequence could have made it harder for the person sitting on the right. The related phenomenon “inhibition of return” states that it is harder for people to react to a stimulus at a specific location where another (or the same) stimulus just appeared, than to react to a stimulus where no stimuli were shown recently (Posner, Rafal, Chaote and Vaughn, 1985). Second, the presence of the investigator might have had a social influence on reaction times. Abrahamse, van der Lubbe and Verwey (2007) also found an influence of the investigator presence on the reaction times of their participants. They found that the reaction times decreased when the investigator walked into the room. Although this is not comparable to our study, it suggests the high influence an investigator can have on the participants. Post hoc analysis also showed that if participants had to press the right button, they made fewer errors than if they had to press the left button. There are several explanations for this finding. First, the effect might be caused either by the structure of the sequence comparable to the effect of the position that we just described. Second, all of the participants but one were right handed. Because they were right handed, they probably had better movement control over the right hands and therefore were
  16. 16. prone to make less errors with that hand. This were the main findings concerning the two groups their position and the button they had to press. Our experiment was concerned with implicit learning. Because of an unexpected loss of the recognition task data, we are unable to determine whether the participants learned implicitly or explicitly. This leaves our first hypothesis unanswered. Further, as already mentioned, the investigator was always positioned on the left side during the experiment. Therefore, we are not able to determine the influence the investigator had on both the participants. For following studies, we suggest that the investigator should be positioned on the left and right sides equally. For this study, the presence of an investigator during the experiment was necessary, but maybe following studies can be constructed in a different way. Another point of discussion is that the participants were able to choose their time of participation. Therefore, it was possible for friends to take part in the experiment together. The familiarity, or unfamiliarity, between the participants might have influenced their behavior. We suggest that following studies randomly assign participants to single and joint conditions.
  17. 17. Practical implications In this section, we would like to discuss the practical use of the findings from this study. We will first take a look at implicit learning in the single as well as the joint condition and after that, we will discuss the utilization of the Simon-effect. The first finding could be meaningful for an educational setting. Implicit learning has always been a feature of the nurture of children, just think of teaching facts to children like numbers or moving patterns by simply playing with them. In an advanced age, this process could be used for exercising mathematics, such as algorithms and other logical constructs of numbers. The mere exposure to them could provide a support to solve later mathematical problems. Implicit learning is also a main feature of sport, regarding again the prior example of dancing. It is not possible to teach somebody to dance by explaining it to them – this has to happen during the process. Regarding our results, we can conclude that dancing is learned in a different manner if exercised with somebody else (e.g. ballroom dance) than alone (e.g. ballet). According to our findings, we would expect that singles learn faster than couples, at least in the beginning. Our recommendation is therefore to always learn alone during the early stages of acquiring difficult movement patterns. The second finding could be of great importance in the area of ergonomics. Keeping in mind the position of the instruments and the user, ergonomists can render the design of product more usable. The range of applications is huge, but the importance of reaction times is the most relevant for safety appliances like the cockpit of an airplane. For example, if the captain of a plane is sitting on the right side, most of the critical buttons should also be located on the right side. Through carefully structuring and positioning the instruments in this respect, reaction times could be decreased permanently. And in some situations, even a small improvement of reaction time can be of crucial importance.
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