Through practice, people are able to integrate a secondary sequence (e.g., a stimulus-based sequence) into a primary sequence (e.g., a response-based sequence), but it is still controversial whether the integrated sequences lead to better learning than only the primary sequence. In the present study, we aimed to investigate the effects of a sequence that integrated space and color sequences on early and late learning phases (corresponding to effector-independent and effector-dependent learning, respectively) and how the effects differed in the integrated and primary sequences in each learning phase. In the task, the participants were required to learn a sequence of button presses using trial-and-error and to perform the sequence successfully for 20 trials (m × n task). First, in the baseline task, all participants learned a non-colored sequence, in which the response button always turned red. Then, in the learning task, the participants were assigned to two groups: a colored sequence group (i.e., space and color) or a non-colored sequence group (i.e., space). In the colored sequence, the response button turned a pre-determined color and the participants were instructed to attend to the sequences of both location and color as much as they could. The results showed that the participants who performed the colored sequence acquired the correct button presses of the sequence earlier, but showed a slower mean performance time than those who performed the non-colored sequence. Moreover, the slower performance time in the colored sequence group remained in a subsequent transfer task in which the spatial configurations of the buttons were vertically mirrored from the learning task. These results indicated that if participants explicitly attended to both the spatial response sequence and color stimulus sequence at the same time, they could develop their spatial representations of the sequence earlier (i.e., early development of the effector-independent learning), but might not be able to enhance their motor representations of the sequence (i.e., late development of the effector-dependent learning). Thus, the undeveloped effector-dependent representations in the colored sequence group directly led to a long performance time in the transfer sequence.
Tanaka, K., & Watanabe, K. (2017). Effects of an additional sequence of color stimuli on visuomotor sequence learning. Frontiers in Psychology, 8(JUN). https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2017.00937