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Implicit learning of cognitive structures with

emotional components
Rzvan Jurchi, Adrian Opre
Cognitive Psychology Laboratory, Department of Psychology, Babe-Bolyai University, Cluj-Napoca, Romania
Procedure

Introduction
The current investigation attempts to uncover
the possible role played by implicit learning in
generation and maintenance of affective
responses. Using a modified version of the
artificial grammar learning paradigm
(Norman & Price, 2012; Reber, 1967), we
illustrate a possible approach to this topic.

Hypotheses
Participants will learn an artificial grammar
that comprises neutral components and a
negative emotion.
The learning will be unconscious.

Methods

Acquisition phase
Half of the participants saw 30 strings generated
according to one grammar, the other half saw
30 strings generated according to another one.

Classification accuracy

Test phase 1
Forty new strings, 20 grammatical and 20
ungrammatical.
Participants had to decide which strings were
grammatical and which were not.
Assessment of conscious/unconscious status of
learning:
After every classification they had to report:
the basis of their response, choosing from
guess, intuition, familiarity, rules, and
memory (Dienes & Scott, 2005).
the confidence in the response, on a scale
ranging from 50% to 100% (Dienes et al.,
1995).

55,00%

60,00%
75,4

54,00%

58,00%
70,4
56,00%

65,4

52,00%

54,00%

60,4

51,00%

52,00%

55,4

50,00%

50,00%

50,4
45,4

48,00%

49,00%

40,4
46,00%

48,00%

35,4

44,00%
47,00%

30,4

Guess
Test 1

Test 2

Test 1:
m = 54.91% (SD= 10.31),
t(31)=2.69, p=.01, d=0.49.
Test 2: 51.13% (SD = 16.16)
Test 3: 50.16% (SD = 13.99),
ps > .70.

Intuition & Familiarity

Rules & Memory

Test 3

Rules and memory: m = 60.14%,


(SD= 19.99);
t(29)= 2.77, p= .009, d= 0.50.
Guessing: 53.11% (SD=28.45)
Intuition and familiarity: 50.33%
(SD=13.24),
ps > . 50.

Test phases 2 and 3


10 grammatical and 10 ungrammatical strings
from which the emotional images were
eliminated (Test 2) or replaced with randomlyappearing neutral images (Test 3).

Confidence

Response attributions
62,00%

53,00%

Correct

Incorrect

Correct responses
m =70.28% (SD=8.74)
Incorrect responses
m = 69.74% (SD=9.21)
t(31)=0.65, p= .51, d= 0.13.

Conclusions
Participants' above chance accuracy in Test 1 indicates that they have learned the grammar. Moreover,
their lack of accuracy in Tests 2 and 3 indicates that they have learned the emotion as an essential part
of the grammar.
The lack of difference between confidence in correct and incorrect responses reveal that the
performance was mostly sustained by unconscious information, while the above chance accuracy for
responses based on rules and memory indicates that there has also been a significant amount of
explicit knowledge (Dienes et al., 1995; Dienes & Scott, 2005).

Participants
Thirty-six students (10 men); mean age 22.55
years (SD = 3.95).

Materials

Therefore, this is one of the first studies showing that unconscious learning could be involved in the
acquisition of complex cognitive structures with emotional components.

Strings of 5 to 10 images:
emotionally neutral images
sadness-inducing images (from the
International Affective Picture System).
The place of the images was determined by an
artificial grammar (e.g., Fig. 1).
The images were presented sequentially, for
two seconds each. Where the grammar
requested a sadness-inducing image, one image
appeared randomly, out of 10 possible sadnessinducing images (Fig. 2).

Results

References
Figure 1. One of the artificial grammars

Figure 2. Examples of sadness-inducing images

Dienes, Z., Altmann, G., Kwan, L., & Goode, A. (1995). Unconscious knowledge of artificial
grammars is applied strategically. Journal of Experimental Psych: Learning, Memory, and
Cognition, 21(5), 13221338.
Dienes, Z., & Scott, R. (2005). Measuring unconscious knowledge: Distinguishing structural
knowledge and judgment knowledge. Psychological Research, 69(5-6), 338-351.
Norman, E., & Price, M. C. (2012). Social intuition as a form of implicit learning: Sequences
of body movements are learned less explicitly than letter sequences. Advances in Cognitive
Psychology, 8(2), 121-131.
Reber, A. S. (1967). Implicit learning of artificial grammars. Journal of Verbal Learning and
Verbal Behaviour, 6, 855863.

Contact info
Rzvan Jurchi
Cognitive Psychology
Laboratory, Republicii 37 Street
400015 Cluj-Napoca, Romania.
razvanjurchis@yahoo.com
Tel: +40740082595