Implicit learning and transfer in sequence acquisition play important roles in daily life. Several previous studies have found that even when participants are not aware that a transfer sequence has been transformed from the learning sequence, they are able to perform the transfer sequence faster and more accurately; this suggests implicit transfer of visuomotor sequences. Here, we investigated whether implicit transfer could be modulated by the number of trials completed in a learning session. Participants learned a sequence through trial and error, known as the m × n task (Hikosaka et al. in J Neurophysiol 74:1652–1661, 1995). In the learning session, participants were required to successfully perform the same sequence 4, 12, 16, or 20 times. In the transfer session, participants then learned one of two other sequences: one where the button configuration Vertically Mirrored the learning sequence, or a randomly generated sequence. Our results show that even when participants did not notice the alternation rule (i.e., vertical mirroring), their total working time was less and their total number of errors was lower in the transfer session compared with those who performed a Random sequence, irrespective of the number of trials completed in the learning session. This result suggests that implicit transfer likely occurs even over a shorter learning duration.
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