Friday, July 29, 2005

Unconscious and Unintentional (Implicit) Learning

"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit." - Aristotle

Here's another recent publication relevant to 'unconscious' learning. In this latest study in Nature (sorry, not free online access yet), researchers found a surprising degree of unconscious learning ability in patients with severe amnestic memory problems. The first link below is to the press release.

We take in enormous quantities of information through our senses and movements, but although a lot of information is filtered, what gets through is then sorted into conscious and unconscious patterns. So when we act on the unconscious patterns, we may not be completely aware of it.

Implicit learning refers to unintentional learning - and this can be powerfully manipulated in education. After first handling, experiencing, or playing with materials, guided questioning is used to make implicit learning explicit.

Habit Leads To Learning
Unconscious Elementary Math Learning
Mathemagenic: Implicit Learning
Making the Implicit Explicit
Reber Dissociating Explicit and Implicit... pdf


  1. Implicit Learning

    Implicit learning is THE way to go when learning a language... as a great deal of research shows- but I was fascinated to read the implications for other subjects (such as, gasp!, math).

    Greap blog!

  2. Hi aj. You're right, there's a ton of stuff on implicit and explicit language learning. Have you seen this nice Powerpoint presentation of Grammar Learning? Excellent teachers who guide their students to learn implicitly seem particularly gifted in their ability to organize information so the patterns are recognized, but not just 'told'. Also if you want to see more brain pics highlight differences in implicit vs. explicit category learning, look at the 2nd paper down here.

  3. Very interesting ppt on Grammar Learning. Thanks for the post and link. "Implicit learning" sounds to me similar to "knowledge acquisition" (real, invisible learning) as opposed to "learning" (which is observable behaviour). Here's a quote from my report on a (2004) seminar on autonomy in Language Learning led by Henri Holec (NB: this definition of "acquisition" is a little different from Stephen Krashen's):

    If learning cannot be said to be the direct result of teaching, then what is learning? One hypothesis was that true learning is invisible, and did not necessarily equate directly with learning behaviour, which is observable. To make the distinction between the observable behaviour which is the result of teaching and the invisible, mysterious, non-linear process of learning, the word “acquisition” was used to describe the latter, while “learning” was allowed to keep its definition as the result of teaching, i.e. observable manifest behaviour....Acquisition can then be taken to refer to a mysterious, invisible process that is non-linear, that is not necessarily incremental, that jumps back and forth and in loops, and does not enjoy a one-to-one direct relationship with teaching. Teaching can result in acquisition. A problem that teachers themselves create is to try to ensure that learning takes place, but this is not possible if we accept the distinction between learning and acquisition.

  4. Anonymous1:41 PM

    great post