Implicit and Explicit Learning: Differential Effects of Affective States

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Two experiments using a standard artificial grammar paradigm were conducted to examine the role of affective states, specifically anxiety and depression, on implicit learning. The main purpose was to broaden the range of human functioning explored through the application of the robustness principle in the evolutionary framework recently developed by Reber which predicts that cognitive processes which rely upon unconscious, implicit processes should be less affected by affective states than those which rely upon conscious, explicit processes. In Study 1 (N = 60), high test anxiety was associated with performance deficits in the explicit components of the task; no differences were found in the implicit phases of the task. In Study 2 (N = 160), varying levels of subclinical depression were unrelated to both implicit and explicit functioning. The contrasting findings of the two studies are discussed in terms of the differential cognitive effects and adaptive implications of these two affective states.

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