Serial Reaction Time Learning in Preschool- and School-Age Children

Kathleen M Thomas, Charles A. Nelson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

110 Scopus citations


Visuomotor sequence learning was assessed in 4- to 10-year-old children using a serial reaction time (SRT) task with both random and sequenced trials. One-half of the children received exposure to the sequence prior to performing the reaction time (RT) task. In Experiment 1, 7- and 10-year-old children demonstrated sequence-specific decreases in RT. As in the adult SRT literature, participants with explicit awareness of the sequence at the end of the session showed larger sequence-specific reaction time decrements than those without explicit awareness. Contrary to expectation, preexposure to the sequence did not reliably predict the level of awareness attained. Results from Experiment 2 indicate that 4-year-olds also demonstrate significant sequence learning on a variant of the SRT task. This article provides preliminary data regarding developmental changes in sequential learning and the development and use of implicit and explicit knowledge. Age-related differences emerged primarily in explicit rather than implicit knowledge.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)364-387
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Experimental Child Psychology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2001
Externally publishedYes


  • Children's learning
  • Explicit
  • Implicit
  • Motor skill learning
  • SRT
  • Serial reaction time

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