The Influence of Cognitive Load on Regularity Learning

Leong, Teng Chee (James) (2014). The Influence of Cognitive Load on Regularity Learning Honours Thesis, School of Psychology, The University of Queensland.

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Author Leong, Teng Chee (James)
Thesis Title The Influence of Cognitive Load on Regularity Learning
School, Centre or Institute School of Psychology
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 2014-10-08
Thesis type Honours Thesis
Supervisor Jason Mattingley
Total pages 90
Language eng
Subjects 1701 Psychology
Abstract/Summary To make predictions in a chaotic environment, patterns and regularities need to be learned, often under conditions of high cognitive demand. Here, I report the results of two experiments on the neural correlates of regularity learning. Experiment 1 replicated a previous study on implicit encoding of non-sequential, stochastic statistical regularities in an auditory paradigm (Garrido et al., 2013. PLoS Compututational Biology, 9(3), e1002999). Experiment 2 was conducted to ascertain the effects of cognitive load on this implicit learning. Both experiments tested neural responses to tones sampled from two Gaussian distributions with narrow and broad variances, as measured with electroencephalography (EEG). Previous research has shown that tones from the tails of such distributions elicit larger evoked responses, akin to the well-known ‘mismatch negativity’ (MMN), a brain response generated by events that violate established expectations or regularities. In Experiment 1, I confirmed a learning effect via greater MMN-like responses when identical target sounds were embedded within a narrow sound distribution than within a broad distribution. This provided further evidence that people can learn statistical regularities from seemingly random events. In Experiment 2, I investigated the role of cognitive load on learning within the same auditory paradigm, using a visual 1-back versus 2- back task as the load manipulation. I hypothesised that the high cognitive demand of the 2-back task would deplete resources that might otherwise be used for learning, and this should diminish learning of the auditory sequences, as reflected in the MMN response. As in Experiment 1, I observed a reliable learning effect that was modulated by the variance of the sound distribution, but there was no significant influence of cognitive load. Contrary to my initial prediction, the findings of Experiment 2 suggest that implicit learning can occur independently of cognitive load.
Keyword Cognitive load

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Created: Wed, 29 Apr 2015, 10:34:25 EST by Anita Whybrow on behalf of School of Psychology