Proceduralization and Working Memory in Association Learning

AbstractHumans are highly variable in their ability to learn and execute complex tasks; however, there are conflicting theories on skill acquisition. This study compared two different explanations for how association learning interacts with other cognitive processes: a) reinforcement learning and working memory are separate, competing processes operating simultaneously on association learning; and, b) associations are proceduralized into production rules and reinforcement learning acts on those rules. Participants completed a simple association learning task followed by a delayed test under two conditions designed to contrast these theories. The results are consistent with a proceduralization account in which reinforcement learning and working memory are not competitive interfering systems, but there remain important questions about how these two accounts may be best integrated.

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