Event timing and age deficits in higher-order sequence learning

James H. Howard, Darlene V. Howard, Nancy A. Dennis, Helen Yankovich

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Recent studies have reported age deficits in learning sequences that contain subtle sequential regularities [e.g., Curran (1997) Psychological Research, 60(1-2), 24; D. V. Howard et al. (2004) Psychology and Aging, 19(1), 79; Howard, J. H. Jr, & Howard, D. V. (1997). Psychololgy and Aging, 12(4), 634]. This finding is of potential theoretical interest, but the contribution of sequence event timing to this deficit has not been investigated. This study used an alternating serial reaction time task to examine implicit sequence learning in young adults when event timing mimicked that experienced by older adults in previous research. We varied the response-to-stimulus interval directly in Experiment 1 and indirectly by degrading the stimuli to influence response time in Experiment 2. Results indicate that these "aged" young adults learned the higher-order sequence structure implicitly, but they learned less than young controls and more than old adults on some measures of implicit learning in both experiments. In addition, these two different experimental manipulations produced distinct patterns of deficits despite having nearly identical effects on event sequence timing. These findings suggest that event timing alone cannot explain the age deficits observed in high-order implicit sequence learning.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)647-668
Number of pages22
JournalAging, Neuropsychology, and Cognition
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2007

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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