Received: by alpheratz.cpm.aca.mmu.ac.uk id WAA07406 (8.6.9/5.3[ref firstname.lastname@example.org] for cpm.aca.mmu.ac.uk from email@example.com); Tue, 30 Oct 2001 22:38:29 GMT Subject: Fwd: Study shows brain can learn without really trying Date: Tue, 30 Oct 2001 17:29:21 -0500 x-sender: firstname.lastname@example.org x-mailer: Claris Emailer 2.0v3, Claritas Est Veritas From: "Wade T.Smith" <email@example.com> To: "Memetics Discussion List" <firstname.lastname@example.org> Content-Type: text/plain; charset="iso-8859-1" Content-transfer-encoding: quoted-printable Message-ID: <20011030222919.AAA23339@email@example.com> Sender: firstname.lastname@example.org Precedence: bulk Reply-To: email@example.com
I'm not sure, at all, that this study makes any claim for 'subliminal'
learning, (although I'm sure that fraud's proponents will bark that it
does), in fact, it appears only to ascertain to pattern-recognition and
other unconscious perceptions. My favorite question for people to show
this sort of thing, is, when looking at the moon, to ask them if it's
getting bigger or smaller- this would seem to me to be the sort of thing
that only gets picked up 'unconsciously', unless one were semi-serious
about their moon-gazing, which most people aren't. Although, the
mentioned 'next song on the album' trick is a good one.
Study shows brain can learn without really trying
By Patricia Wen, Globe Staff, 10/30/2001
Coach potatoes who aspire to intellectual greatness may have some hope: A
new study shows a person can focus on one thing - say TV - and soak up
other information on the side without even trying.
Whether they can pick up something as complex as Shakespeare or a foreign
language awaits more study. Still, a Boston University researcher this
week found that people absorb information in their peripheral vision -
they can even acquire a low-level skill - while focused entirely on
The findings, which appeared in Nature magazine this week, go further
than previous research in showing just what the human brain can learn
without consciously trying.
''Even when our mind is not paying attention to extraneous information,
it ends up processing it,'' said Takeo Watanabe, a researcher in the
Boston University psychology department.
In his study, 72 young adults, ranging in age from 19 to 25, were asked
to look at a computer and identify letters that flashed rapidly across
the screen. Next to half of the participants sat a separate screen,
displaying gray dots, much like the visual snow on a television set with
bad reception. Unbeknownst to the subjects, 5 percent of the gray dots
were moving in the same direction, a pattern that was barely discernable
to the naked eye.
Later, both groups were tested on their ability to look at a television
screen and detect any pattern of moving dots. The group that only had one
screen within their field of vision could not detect moving dots, even
when 10 percent marched in the same direction. But everyone in the group
who had been exposed to the peripheral screen of moving dots had an
enhanced ability to detect a pattern.
''It means they learned something without being conscious of it,''
Only further study will show, however, if the subliminal learning came at
a cost to the main task, answering questions such as: If a teenager
writes a book report while peripherally seeing French vocabulary words,
will the quality of his or her paper suffer?
Researchers in the field say that's a key question, one that will help
ordinary people figure out whether they should seek out - or avoid - a
split-screen learning environment.
''Is there a cost to this?'' said Daniel Schacter, a psychology professor
at Harvard University. ''You'd think there would be, but it's hard to
guess this one.''
Past work in the area of subliminal or implicit learning focused on what
the brain picked up without trying to, though the extraneous information
usually related to the main task.
Examples of this include a driver knowing just what song will play next
on the car's tape player, not because of a conscious attempt to learn the
order but because they just heard the sequence so many times, said Marcel
Just, codirector of the Center for Cognitive Brain Imaging at Carnegie
Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pa.
Watanabe said he hopes to learn more about just what kinds of skills can
be picked up in a subliminal way, and if they can enter the brain through
other channels, such as listening.
Regardless of the future role of implicit learning, Watanabe said this
kind of learning has long helped the human species survive. He said, for
instance, that someone could walk down a street while talking to a friend
and implicitly pick up that cars are driving in a particular direction.
While paying attention only to the conversation, part of the brain is
''sensitized'' to the direction of the cars to avoid an accident, he said.
''Without that knowledge, we'd be in much more danger,'' he said.
Patricia Wen can be reached by
e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This story ran on page C1 of the Boston Globe on 10/30/2001.
© Copyright 2001 Globe Newspaper Company.
===============================This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the
Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission
For information about the journal and the list (e.g. unsubscribing)
This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Tue Oct 30 2001 - 22:44:02 GMT