Current Research / Aktuelle Forschungsgebiete


The relation between first-order performance and metacognitive judgments in implicit learning research - Funding period (2019 - 2022)

Hilde Haider & Sarah Esser
Research Associate: Clarissa Lustig

How conscious awareness about a sequence develops in an implicit learning situation is an important but not yet solved question (e.g. Cleeremans, 2014; Scott & Dienes, 2008; Esser & Haider, submitted). Our former findings suggest that strengthening of implicitly acquired representations is not sufficient to explain the emergence of consciousness in an implicit learning situation. Rather, and in line with the current discussion in the field of consciousness concerning Higher-Order Thought theories, we assume that implicit knowledge is represented in terms of first-order representations whereas conscious representations presuppose the generation of higher-order thoughts or metacognitive representations. In the last years, the interaction between first-order and metacognitive representations triggered a lot of research in many different domains (cf. decision making, Fleming & Daw, 2017). The central still open question here is whether first-order and higher-order judgments rely on the same signals. Alternatively, it is conceivable that former experiences in similar situations additionally modulate the metacognitive representations.

To investigate this, we have planned two series of experiments. The first series is aimed to investigate which information is integrated into metacognitive judgments. We assume that while performing a current task, participants develop an increasingly more stable metacognitive model of the situation. This model not only includes information derived from the first-order performance but also experiences made in similar situations. The second goal of this series then is to examine how metacognitive models of a current task are modulated by recognizing a discrepancy between predicted and experienced metacognitive judgements (prediction error).

Building on these findings, we then turn to the question how conscious awareness emerges in an implicit learning situation. We assume that a large metacognitive prediction error in conjunction with a stable metacognitive model leads to a reappraisal of the validity of the current metacognitive model. Instead of adjusting the current model on the basis of the prediction error, an explicit search process for a better fitting model is triggered, which can lead to conscious insight into the acquired implicit sequence knowledge. The goal of this second series of experiments is to investigate whether and how the size of the prediction error modulates the development of conscious knowledge about the underlying sequence.

This research is supported by a grant from the German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, DFG) [HA 5447/12-1].


Prediction-based mechanisms of separation of representations in sequential actions in multitasking - Second funding period (2018 - 2021)

Hilde Haider & Robert Gaschler, FernUniversität in Hagen
Research Associates: Lasse Pelzer & Christoph Naefgen

Many everyday situations afford to simultaneously execute two or more tasks consisting of inherent action sequences (e.g., cooking). This sequencing has drawn relatively little attention in the literature on multitasking (Botvinick & Bylsma, 2005; Schiffer, Waszak & Yeung, 2015). Cognitive-control models of dual task performance postulate a strategic bottleneck which serves to hinder crosstalk between the two simultaneously conducted tasks (e.g., Hazeltine et al., 2006; Logan & Gordon 2001; Meyer & Kieras, 1997; Miller, Ulrich & Rolke, 2009; Salvucci & Taatgen, 2008; Tombu & Jolicoeur, 2003). They thus could easily incorporate findings showing that such inherent sequences alter dual task costs, while for structural bottleneck theories it could be difficult to reconcile such findings.

Our findings of the first funding period have shown that temporal separation reduces the detrimental effects of dual tasking on sequence learning. We further specified the Schmidtke and Heuer (1997)-thesis that the randomness of the sequence of stimuli and responses in the task paired with the Serial Reaction Time Task (SRTT) disrupts sequence learning. Our results (i.e., Röttger et al., 2017) and discussions among movement science and cognitive psychology groups in the SPP1772 (cf. Broeker et al. 2017) suggest that participants automatically predict (in line with predictive coding) upcoming events and can fail to respect task boundaries when doing so. We assume that across-task predictions involving a task with random stimulus sequence disturbs sequence learning and performance in dual tasking. A pilot study shows first evidence for across-task prediction based on crosstalk between (a) the current stimulus in the task with random sequence and (b) the stimuli due in the next two trials in the SRTT.

The first goal (Q1 series) therefore is to provide further evidence for the role of across-task predictions in dual-tasking. In the Q2 series, we focus on the possibility of content-dependent separation of the two tasks, as this should allow keeping the two concurrently presented task-sets separate to foster parallel processing and by this address the central problem in multitasking (Hazeltine & Schumacher, 2016). While the reduction of dual-task costs by temporal separation is predicted by either structural or strategic bottleneck models of multitasking, content-dependent separation is difficult to reconcile with the first class of models. Building on characteristics of everyday tasks, we will ask whether and how task separation is enhanced by: (Q2-A) separable outcomes of action effects, (Q2-B) superordinate goals and natural sequences or (Q2-C) conflicts. This can help to better understand why dual-task costs arise and to link findings from cognitive experiments with the motor research groups of SPP1772 who also discuss practice-induced separation of processing into modular structures, laying the ground for integrating these lines of research.

This research is supported by a grant within the Priority Program SPP 1772 "Multitasking" from the German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, DFG) [HA 5447/11-2].

Cooperation is continued with Stefan Panzer, Universität des Saarlandes.


The role of separation of representations in sequential actions in multitasking
First funding period (2015 - 2018)

Hilde Haider & Robert Gaschler, FernUniversität in Hagen
Research Associates: Eva Röttger & Fang Zhao

Based on theoretical proposals of, for instance, Hazeltine, Ruthruff, and Remington (2006), we assume that one important functional role of the bottleneck in multitasking paradigms is to separate the processing streams of the simultaneously conducted tasks (separation-of-representations account). This assumption is supported by findings of Schumacher and Schwarb (2009), who investigated the effects of dual-task load on implicit sequence learning. They only found sequence learning if the experimental condition provided temporal delays or priority separation between the auditory-vocal and the visual-manual task. Building on these promising findings, the general goal of the proposed two series of experiments is to test the separation-of-representations account in the context of implicit sequence learning.

The first series of experiments focus on the question of whether and how the dual-task bottleneck can contribute to supporting implicit sequence learning. The second series then turns the question around by asking whether and how implicit sequence learning might support dual-task performance.

Thus, even though acquisition and usage of sequence knowledge has drawn relatively little attention in the literature on multitasking, we argue for a methodological and conceptual linking of problems tackled in the literature on sequence learning and problems addressed in multitasking. This would contribute to our understanding of the functional role of the limitations usually found in multitasking situations.

Our research questions centrally contribute to the Priority Program SPP 1772 which is aimed at an integration of multitasking research from a cognitive psychology vs. movement science perspective. With its basis in movement science (e.g. Willingham, 1998) the study of implicit sequence learning is located at the junction of these perspectives which operationally can be characterized by employing discrete responses vs. continuous movements. Our project underlines that sequencing aspects are relevant for understanding dual-task performance and can be studied by expanding established setups of dual-task research in the cognitive psychology tradition. This reduces the conceptual leap to the sequencing aspects involved in the control of continuous movements under dual-task demands, supporting to establish an interdisciplinary research field.

This research is supported by a grant within the Priority Program SPP 1772 "Multitasking" from the German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, DFG) [HA 5447/11-1].

Cooperation is planned with Stefan Panzer, Universität des Saarlandes.


Influential factors and mechanisms for the emergence of consciously available knowledge in an implicit learning situation - Funding period (2015 - 2018)

Hilde Haider
Research Associate: Sarah Esser

In the field of implicit learning research, it is a highly debated question how conscious awareness about a sequence arises in an implicit learning situation. Two classes of theories can be contrasted in the literature: According to the first class, explicit representations result from strengthening of implicit representations. Thus, this class presumes quantitative differences between implicit and explicit representations. On the contrary, the second class postulates qualitative differences between implicit and explicit knowledge. As an example, the Unexpected-Event Hypothesis (UEH; Haider & Frensch, 2005) belongs to this second class of theories. It presumes that implicit knowledge leads to behavioral changes which might violate the expectations. This violation then triggers explicit search processes which in turn lead to consciously accessible knowledge. The goal of the proposed experiments is to test these two classes of theories against each other.

In the first series of experiments, we manipulate the strength of implicitly acquired knowledge by, for instance, the repetition rate of the sequence within a certain context. According to the first class of theories, this should increase consciously accessible sequence knowledge. However, should the UEH apply, we should be able to show that an additional violation of expectations is needed in order to increase conscious knowledge.

The second series of experiments then focuses on response-effect learning (R-E learning) which might increase the probability of experiencing a violation of expectancies. For instance, the findings of Hoffmann and colleagues (2001) suggest that increasing attention to response effects increases the amount of explicit knowledge. Furthermore, Keele et al. (2003) suggest that R-E learning might differ from S-S and R-R learning in terms of the underlying representation. R-E learning is assumed to be based on inter-dimensional learning processes because reactions are associated with events in the distal environment. By contrast, S-S and R-R learning results from representations within one single dimension. Therefore, the goal of the second series of experiments is to manipulate the R-E contingencies in an implicit learning situation while S-S and R-R contingencies are kept constant. We presume that conscious knowledge about S-S- and R-R sequences should increase if ones own actions contingently lead to certain events in the distal environment. Overall, the planned experiments contribute to our understanding of consciousness and the mechanisms underlying the emergence of consciously accessible knowledge in an implicit learning situation.

This research is supported by a grant from the German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, DFG) [HA 5447/10-1].