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Can we really learn unconsciously?

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That is doubted in a new paper:

Can we learn without being aware of what we’re learning? Many psychologists say that ‘unconscious’, or implicit, learning exists.

But in a new paper, London-based psychologists Vadillo, Konstantinidis, and Shanks call the evidence for this into question.

Essentially, this suggests that the reason why only 21.5% of the studies detected a significant recognition effect, is that the studies just didn’t have a large enough sample size to reliably detect it. Vadillo et al. show that the median sample size in these studies was 16, so the statistical power to detect an effect of dz = 0.31 with that sample size is just 21% – which, of course, is exactly the proportion that did detect one.

It seems therefore that people do have at least a degree of recognition of the stimuli in a contextual cueing experiment. Whether this means the learning is conscious as opposed to unconscious is not clear, but it does raise that possibility. More.

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8 Replies to “Can we really learn unconsciously?

  1. 1
    Mung says:

    I can’t even learn consciously! So I have to cling to the hope that there are other ways to learn. Don’t be so heartless, News.

  2. 2
    Mapou says:

    Based on my research and on published work by others, we know that there is a huge part of the brain that is not only unconscious but it also learns unconsciously. It is called the cerebellum. It’s our own personal robot helper that we carry with us. However the cerebellum does not learn on its own or directly from the senses. It is taught everything it knows by the neocortex. And the latter can only learn something if it is consciously focusing on it. So the article is right in this respect.

    The brain relies on the cerebellum for routine tasks such as maintaining balance and posture while the neocortex is busy attending to something else. As you know, the neocortex can only focus on one thing at a time. We are rarely aware of the actions of our own cerebellums. The cerebellum is just an automaton and far from perfect: we routinely run into things, forget where we put our keys (the cerebellum does not remember the past), occasionally step on the cat’s tail or cause a traffic accident.

  3. 3
    Robert Byers says:

    We don’t learn unconsciously I think. its simply that the memory is working and working things out. Not voodoo learning ability.
    Our memory simply is so great one would think we learn things without serious reflection yet its just memorized data bumping into each other.
    I say no learning goes on without the memory and so the memory WOULD HAVE to be involved in the subconscious if that was true.
    If so however just say its the memory and no need for voodoo mechanisms.
    are they saying unconscious learning DOES NOT employ the memory??

  4. 4
    bornagain77 says:

    Famous Dreams – The Interesting, the Amazing, the Bizarre
    *Below are links to famous dreams of people who have their place in history for various reasons.
    http://www.dreaminterpretation.....reams.html

  5. 5
    bornagain77 says:

    Questionable – Science & Faith – Walter Bradley, PhD – video – (9:45 minute mark)
    https://youtu.be/jf-RrfjAmoo?list=PL-0zpu2toenYII45LT4nlNDu5uDF9I8s1&t=585
    Gateway Church (April 2015) – Pastor John Burke & Walter Bradley PhD dive into the question of does being a scientist exclude having faith in God?

    Here is another talk, and paper, by Dr. Bradley, from a few years back, which I found highly educational:

    Designed Universe – Walter Bradley PhD. – video
    https://vimeo.com/105537135

    How the Recent Discoveries Support a Designed Universe – Dr. Walter L. Bradley – paper
    Excerpt: Only in the 20th century have we come to fully understand that the incredibly diverse phenomena that we observe in nature are the outworking of a very small number of physical laws, each of which may be described by a simple mathematical relationship. Indeed, so simple in mathematical form and small in number are these physical laws that they can all be written on one side of one sheet of paper, as seen in Table 1.
    http://www.leaderu.com/real/ri9403/evidence.html

  6. 6
    Axel says:

    BA77, it seems when we are not fully conscious (our worldly intelligence is not fully in charge), the brain allows the wisdom of the heart, the seat of wisdom, the deepest level of our understanding to play a more prominent role.

    I think it is where the Holy Spirit is able to coordinate the strands of our intelligence, and is perhaps where the notion of the absent-minded professor comes from. Yes, his mind will be active, but in a more quiescent and above docile, childlike manner.

    A sense of urgency and immediate purpose would be inimical. I read recently that it had been discovered that people are able to take in much more information when they are in some measure distracted b something else.

    This accords with my own experience, as, apparently, when I was a 5 or 6 year old, my mother was told by my teacher that I seemed to spend a lot of time looking through the window at the crane in the neighbouring wood-yard, but always seemed to take in what was being said.

  7. 7
    Axel says:

    I forgot to mention other aspects of the matter proposed in #6. This extract from the Psalms speaks to it, it seems to me:

    ‘.4 My lips will speak words of wisdom.
    My heart is full of insight.
    .5 I will turn my mind to a parable,
    with the harp I will solve my problem.’

    As regards parables, though some in the past have viewed them as concessions to the simple-minded, in biblical terms it would be they who are simple-minded; while its personhood and family are close to all we know about the nature of Holy Trinity.

    So ultimate truth, as Teilhard de Chardin came to realise more and more (strange lacuna in understanding for a priest, even if immersed in paleontology), is personal, and as far from being a stony monolith as could be imagined. And more.

    Music and beauty are key factors in this propitious coordination of the strands and layers of our intelligence, as David indicates above.

    Einstein, though known to play the violin, on at least one occasion, found that playing the piano helped him get into ‘the zone’, so to speak, enabling him afterwards, like David, to solve a conundrum that had been on his mind.

    He seems to have been aware of this extraordinary, arguably sovereign, status of beauty (a moral beauty, (e.g. in the Mosaic command not to seethe a kid in its mother’s milk), stating when questioned on the topic, that his criterion when selecting his initial hypotheses was aesthetic.

    It is all of piece with his primary association of a sense of wonder with his religion, as he defined it, dispelling any puzzlement at his deterministic view, which on the face of it seems antithetical to a sense of wonder. On the other hand, such can be the extremely complex and sophisticated mechanical processes within a single E-Coli cell, that that too one would have to concede ought to suffice to fill one with awe.

    Although seemingly the composition and functioning of the brain, as indicated by Professor Hunter would be enough to completely blow a brain specialist’s brain, were he able to understand a fraction of it!

  8. 8
    Axel says:

    One could adapt Shakespeare’s ‘sleep that knits up the ravelled skein of care..’, to ‘that knits up the ravelled skein of half-formed ideas..’

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