Humans implicitly adjust their movements when challenged with perturbations that induce sensory prediction errors. Recent work suggests that failure to accomplish task goals could function as a gain on this prediction-error-driven adaptation or could independently trigger additional implicit mechanisms to bring about greater net learning. We aimed to distinguish between these possibilities using a reaching task wherein prediction errors were fixed at zero, but task success was modulated via changes in target location and size. We first observed that task failure caused changes in hand angle that showed classic signatures of implicit learning. Surprisingly however, these adjustments were eliminated when participants were explicitly instructed to ignore task errors. These results fail to support the idea that task errors independently induce implicit learning, and instead endorse the view that they provide a distinct signal to an intentional cognitive process that is responsive to verbal instruction.
bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience