Implicit Learning and Consciousness: An Empirical, Philosophical, and Computational Consensus in the Making

Implicit Learning and Consciousness: An Empirical, Philosophical, and Computational Consensus in the Making

Implicit Learning and Consciousness: An Empirical, Philosophical, and Computational Consensus in the Making

Implicit Learning and Consciousness: An Empirical, Philosophical, and Computational Consensus in the Making

Synopsis

Can you learn without knowing it? This controversial and much debated question forms the basis of this collection of essays as the authors discuss whether the measurable changes in behaviour that result from learning can ever remain entirely unconscious. Three issues central to the topic of implicit learning are raised. Firstly, the extent to which learning can be unconscious, and therefore implicit, is considered. Secondly, theories are developed regarding the nature of knowledge acquired in implicit learning situations. Finally, the idea that there are two separable independent processing systems in the brain, for implicit and explicit learning, is considered. Implicit Learning and Consciousness challenges conventional wisdom and presents the most up-to-date studies to define, quantify and test the predictions of the main models of implicit learning. The chapters include a variety of research from computer modelling, experimental psychology and neural imaging to the clinical data resulting from work with amnesics. The result is a topical book that provides an overview of the debate on implicit learning, and the various philosophical, psychological and neurological frameworks in which it can be placed. It will be of interest to undergraduates, postgraduates and the philosophical, psychological and modeling research community.

Excerpt

I am delighted to be able to write the foreword for this collection of sterling papers on what has become one of cognitive psychology's most vigorously researched and vociferously debated topics. I feel a special kind of bond with the issues that have been raised by the contributors and, I hope, I will be excused a burst of nostalgia. Back in 1965, I turned in to the faculty at Brown University a Master's thesis with the title “Implicit learning of artificial grammars”. It was not well received. The faculty at Brown were not alone in their misgivings. A long editorial battle ensued before the work was published (Reber, 1967) and, when it did arrive in print, it stirred few passions.

So, it is with considerable interest that I look back on my long involvement with the issue of implicit learning and muse over how much has changed. The fundamental question remains pretty much the same: How is knowledge of complex stimulus displays acquired, encoded, and utilised largely independent of conscious awareness of both the process and the products of acquisition? But the range of issues that has emerged surrounding this seemingly simple question seems to have no bounds and the debates that have been stimulated reach into areas far remote from anything envisioned three decades ago.

As forewords are largely unedited, I am going to take advantage of this opportunity and go on a bit of an intellectual wander. I think I understand why some of the issues that have emerged as points of dispute have stoked controversy and I hope I can provide an overview of why this particular

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