Date of Award

December 2013

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science



First Advisor

Anthony Greene

Committee Members

Deborah Hannula, Christine Larson


Contextual Cuing, Implicit Memory, Learning, Memory, Relational Learning, Visual Search


Repeated perceptual exposure leads to increased accuracy and decreased response latency - referred to as perceptual facilitation or priming - and generally occurs in the absence of conscious memory experience. One example of a priming task which depends upon contextual relations is termed contextual cuing. It has long been held that context-dependent relations can only be acquired with deliberative or explicit processes. While context learning has historically been attributed to declarative memory, the existence of implicit context learning tasks may be better explained as an implicit relational learning process. Although implicit memories have long been characterized as relatively rigid, such tasks raise the possibility of implicit flexible learning. If relational learning entails flexibility in memories and it is possible to encode relations implicitly, then the contextual cuing task should demonstrate implicit flexibility.

The current experiments further investigate the idea that relational learning is possible in the absence of awareness by examining a series of three-phase contextual cuing protocols. Using this visual search task, memory for target location in a repeated context is established and then manipulated by altering target location in repeated arrays by moving the target different locations (reversal/switch). If implicit flexibility is possible, then reversing contextual contingencies should only transiently disrupt visual search latencies. As such, these reversals should produce little in the way of a behavioral cost. While reversing contingencies has historically been shown to produce behavioral costs, the consequences of doing so in this type of visual search task has not been attempted. Overall, this study hopes to show an overall greater efficiency in visual search by way of rapidly adapting implicit learning processes.

Included in

Psychology Commons