Implicit learning as an ability

Scott Barry Kaufman, Colin G DeYoung, Jeremy R. Gray, Luis Jiménez, Jamie Brown, Nicholas Mackintosh

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    238 Scopus citations


    The ability to automatically and implicitly detect complex and noisy regularities in the environment is a fundamental aspect of human cognition. Despite considerable interest in implicit processes, few researchers have conceptualized implicit learning as an ability with meaningful individual differences. Instead, various researchers (e.g., Reber, 1993; Stanovich, 2009) have suggested that individual differences in implicit learning are minimal relative to individual differences in explicit learning. In the current study of English 16-17. year old students, we investigated the association of individual differences in implicit learning with a variety of cognitive and personality variables. Consistent with prior research and theorizing, implicit learning, as measured by a probabilistic sequence learning task, was more weakly related to psychometric intelligence than was explicit associative learning, and was unrelated to working memory. Structural equation modeling revealed that implicit learning was independently related to two components of psychometric intelligence: verbal analogical reasoning and processing speed. Implicit learning was also independently related to academic performance on two foreign language exams (French, German). Further, implicit learning was significantly associated with aspects of self-reported personality, including intuition, Openness to Experience, and impulsivity. We discuss the implications of implicit learning as an ability for dual-process theories of cognition, intelligence, personality, skill learning, complex cognition, and language acquisition.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)321-340
    Number of pages20
    Issue number3
    StatePublished - Sep 2010

    Bibliographical note

    Copyright 2010 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


    • Dual-process theory, intelligence, Intellect
    • Implicit learning, ability
    • Impulsivity
    • Individual differences
    • Language acquisition
    • Openness to Experience
    • Personality, complex cognition, skill learning


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