Yiling Liu, Muxin Ouyang, Wenjie Peng, Wenyang Zhang, Keming Lu, Yujun He, Xiangyan Zeng, Jie Yuan

By Carrot or by Stick: The Influence of Encouraging and Discouraging Facial Feedback on Implicit Rule Learning

  • Behavioral Neuroscience
  • General Psychology
  • Genetics
  • Development
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics

Implicit learning refers to the process of unconsciously learning complex knowledge through feedback. Previous studies investigated the influences of different types of feedback (e.g., social and non-social feedback) on implicit learning. This study focused on the social information presented in the learning situation and tried to explore the effects of different social feedback on implicit rule learning. We assigned participants randomly into an encouraging facial feedback group (happy expression for correct answer, neutral but not negative expression for incorrect answer) and a discouraging facial feedback group (neutral but not happy expression for correct answer, negative expression for incorrect answer). The implicit learning task included four difficulty levels, and social feedback was presented in the learning phase but not the testing phase in two experiments. The only difference between the two experiments was that the sad face used as negative feedback in Experiment 1 was replaced with an angry face in Experiment 2 to enhance the ecological validity of the discouraging facial feedback group. These two experiments yielded consistent results: the performances in the encouraging facial feedback group were more accurate in both the learning and the testing phases at all difficulty levels. These findings indicated that the influence of encouraging social feedback for a better implicit learning achievement was stable and established a new groundwork for future research on incentive-based education, making it critical to investigate the impact of various forms of encouraging-based education on learning.

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