Psychology, Department of


Date of this Version



Published in Perceptual and Motor Skills 97 (2003), pp. 299-314. Copyright © 2003 Perceptual and Motor Skills; published by Ammons Scientific Ltd.. Used by permission.


This experiment compared the performance with explicit (rule-application and rule-discovery) and implicit (nonrule-instructed) learning approaches on the performance of a probabilistic video game task requiring fine motor control. The task required visual tracking of a small ball of light and “catching” it by means of joystick manipulation. A general pattern of improvement with practice occurred for all conditions. All conditions showed use of predictive relations among stimulus events. However, task performance of the rule-application and rule-discovery conditions were inferior to the nonrule-instructed implicit condition, particularly during the early phases of rule acquisition and application. This pattern strongly suggests substantial performance costs associated with attempting to discover or apply probabilistic rules. Decrements are likely due to increased cognitive demands associated with attempting to remember and strategically apply provided probability rules or attempting to discover and apply potentially important and useful probability information from a complex visual display.