Goal relevance and artificial grammar learning

Baruch Eitam*, Yaacov Schul, Ran R. Hassin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


This investigation used a newly developed artificial grammar learning (AGL) paradigm in which participants were exposed to sequences of stimuli that varied in two dimensions (colours and letters) that were superimposed on each other. Variation within each dimension was determined by a different grammar. The results of two studies strongly suggest that implicit learning in AGL depends on the goal relevance of the to-be-learned dimension. Specifically, when only one of the two stimulus dimensions was relevant for their task (Experiment 1) participants learned the structure underlying the relevant, but not that of the irrelevant dimension. However, when both dimensions were relevant, both structures were learned (Experiment 2). These findings suggest that implicit learning occurs only in dimensions to which we are attuned. Based on the present results and on those of Eitam, Hassin, and Schul (2008) we suggest that focusing on goal relevance may provide new insights into the mechanisms underlying implicit learning.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)228-238
Number of pages11
JournalQuarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2009

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Correspondence should be addressed to Baruch Eitam, Yaacov Schul, or Ran R. Hassin, The Hebrew University, Jerusalem, Israel. E-mail: [email protected], [email protected], or [email protected] The article is based on parts of the dissertation of the first author, which was supported by a Golda Meir fellowship to the first author and Israeli Science Foundation Grants 846/03 and 1035/07 for R.R.H. and 371/04 to Y.S. The authors would like to thank Rich Carlson, Natacha Deroost, Zoltan Dienes, Emmanuel Pothos, and Arthur Reber for their comments on an earlier version of this paper.


  • Goal-directed cognition
  • Implicit learning
  • Motivation
  • Nonconscious processes
  • Selective attention


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