Research Topic

Lifespan perspectives on implicit and explicit learning

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Learning is a central feature of human cognition. It shapes many aspects of our daily life, from birth to death. Most of who we are is determined by learned facts and behaviours. Newborn babies learn to associate their mother’s voice with security. Infants demonstrate sensitivity to word boundaries in ...

Learning is a central feature of human cognition. It shapes many aspects of our daily life, from birth to death. Most of who we are is determined by learned facts and behaviours. Newborn babies learn to associate their mother’s voice with security. Infants demonstrate sensitivity to word boundaries in speech. Children and adults learn motor, cognitive and social skills. Such complex skills are acquired through implicit and explicit learning mechanisms. Explicit learning refers to the intentional encoding of information in declarative memory, whereas implicit learning can be defined as the incidental extraction of regularities in the environment. Extensive empirical evidence suggests that explicit learning follows an inverted U-shape, with young adults showing the best learning abilities. However, a clear picture of lifelong changes in implicit learning is lacking. Indeed, far from being unequivocal, results align themselves with two main theoretical accounts of the ontogenetic changes in humans’ implicit learning abilities: (1) developmental invariance and (2) age-related changes approaches.

The central goal of this Research Topic is to review and further explore the characteristics of implicit and explicit learning, with a particular focus in the differences in their efficiency across the lifespan. We welcome original research, methodological, theoretical, review, and perspective contributions.


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