Tag Archives: implicit learning

Knowing without Knowing – Implicit Learning in Action

Lyn Abramson

Lyn Abramson

Implicit learning – knowing without conscious awareness – has positive effects like accelerating foreign language learning and developing more secure computer authentication systems.
It also has negative consequences like prejudiced, biased decision-making.
All of these effects require sufficient sleep to enable memory consolidation of implicit learning.

Patricia Devine

Patricia Devine

When implicit learning leads to inaccurate beliefs about others, the result is often prejudiced behavior.
In contrast,  when biased perceptions are about one self, they can lead to feelings of depression, anxiety, or grandiosity, according to University of Wisconsin’s William T. L. Cox, Lyn Abramson and Patricia Devine with Steven Hollon of Vanderbilt.

Brian Nosek

Brian Nosek

A validated way to identify hidden beliefs about race, age, gender, weight, and more is the Implicit Association Test, developed by University of Virginia’s Brian Nosek, Mahzarin Banaji of Harvard and University of Washington’s Anthony Greenwald.

Mahzarin Banaji

Mahzarin Banaji

Banaji and Greenwald’s popular book provides numerous examples of frequently used thinking short cuts that lead to biased beliefs, decisions, judgments, and behaviors.

Anthony Greenwald

Anthony Greenwald

Similarly, most people make quick assessments of others based on appearance using habitual strategies that don’t account for perceptual limitations, noted journalist Joseph Hallinan, who summarized research on bias, misperceptions, and judgment errors.

Joseph Hallinan

Joseph Hallinan

He cited the impact of situational framing on decision making:  When a decision option is posed as a potential gain, most people are less inclined to take risky decisions.
However, they are more willing to take risks if the option is positioned as a possible loss.

Kara Morgan-Short

Kara Morgan-Short

Implicit language learning was demonstrated by “immersion” listening to multiple native speakers.
University of Illinois at Chicago’s Kara Morgan-Short teamed with Karsten Steinhauer of McGill University and Georgetown’s Cristina Sanz and Michael T. Ullman to conduct brain scans on these language learners, and found they showed “native-like language processing.”
By contrast, explicit grammar training did not improve language learning.

Karsten Steinhauer

Karsten Steinhauer

Likewise, implicit learning principles can increase computer security authentication, useful in high-security nuclear plants or military facilities that usually require the code-holder to be physically present.

Cristina Sanz

Cristina Sanz

Security can be compromised when attackers:

  • Steal the user’s hardware token,
  • Fake the user’s identify through biometrics,
  • Coerce the victim into revealing the secret key or password (“rubber hose cryptanalysis”).
Hristo Bojinov

Hristo Bojinov

Unconscious knowledge” is a highly secure approach to biometrics authentication, demonstrated by Stanford University’s Hristo Bojinov and Dan Boneh, collaborating with Daniel Sanchez and Paul Reber of Northwestern and SRI’s Patrick Lincoln.

They included implicit learning principles in a computer game to subliminally deliver a security password without the user’s conscious awareness of the password.

Paul Reber

Paul Reber

Players “intercepted” falling objects in one of six non-random positions on a computer game screen by pressing a key corresponding to the screen position.
The game repeated a hidden sequence of 30 successive positions more than 100 times during game play.

Players made fewer errors when they encountered this sequence on successive rounds, suggesting they implicitly learned the sequence.
Skill re-tests after two weeks demonstrated that players retained this learned skill, but they were unable to consciously reconstruct or recognize fragments of the planted code sequence.

Patrick Lincoln

Patrick Lincoln

Team Bojinov’s implicit learning game demonstrated a new method of highly secure authentication that resists “rubber hose cryptanalysis” by implicitly training the user to enact the password without conscious knowledge of the code.
Their new project analyzes the rate of forgetting implicitly learned passwords and optimal frequency of security authentication refresher sessions.

However, this innovation in security authentication is dependent on the authenticator having sufficient sleep to consolidate implicit learning in memory, found Innsbruck Medical University’s Stefan Fischer, I. Wilhelm, and J. Born, who examined sleep’s impact on implicit memory formation in children ages 7- 11 and 12 young adults between ages 20 and 30.

Fischer’s team measured serial reaction time task before and after eight implicit learning sessions concentrated on rules underlying grammatical and non-grammatical language structures.
Most volunteer responded quickly, demonstrating implicit rule understanding, even though they couldn’t explain why their performance improved.

When adult participants had an interval of sleep between training sessions, their response times were quicker.
In contrast, well-rested children did not show a similar performance improvement, suggesting that sleep actually interferes with implicit performance gains among children.

Implicit learning can boost performance, seemingly “effortlessly,” but requires sufficient sleep to consolidate longer term performance improvements.
These findings are another argument against sleep deprivation in “Crunch Time” all-night work marathons.

-*How do you capitalize on implicit learning to improve performance?

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Emotional Music Can Lead to Biased Judgments

Joydeep Bhattacharya

Joydeep Bhattacharya

Emotions elicited by music influence can influence and even bias visual judgments, according to University of London’s Nidhya Logeswaran and Joydeep Bhattacharya.

They presented volunteers with short excerpts of “happy” music or “sad” music, then showed neutral, “happy,” and “sad” faces.
When people listened to a “happy” music, they were more likely to perceive faces as “happy” even when the face was neutral.
Similarly, the “priming” with “sad” music was associated with more ratings of faces as “sad,” even if they were neutral.

The team also observed the effects of musical “priming” in electrophysiological measures of brain potential components within 100 milliseconds after the faces were presented, suggesting rapid neuronal information processing.

Even if listeners’ perceptions and judgments can be biased by emotional music, listeners do not experience the precise emotions they hear in music.

Kiyoshi Furukawa

Kiyoshi Furukawa

Listeners can identify strong emotions conveyed by music, but do not experience the same degree or type of emotion, according to Tokyo University of the Arts’s Ai Kawakami and Kiyoshi Furukawa, who collaborated with University of Tokyo’s Kentaro Katahira and Kazuo Okanoya.

Kazuo Okanoya

Kazuo Okanoya

Kawakami and team distinguished “perceived emotion” from “felt emotion” in response to music, and presented two pieces of “sad” music (Mikhail Glinka’s “La Séparation” in F minor) and one piece of “happy” music to 44 volunteers, both musicians and non-musicians.

Mikhail Glinka

Mikhail Glinka

Participants rated their perceived emotions and felt emotions in response to each musical selection using 62 descriptions on a scale from 0 (not at all) to 4 (very much).
Although participants recognized the “sad” music’s negative emotions, most reported feeling “romantic,” and “blithe,” rather than negative or unpleasant.

Muzak

Muzak

“Muzak” (now Mood Media) audio in workplaces can evoke emotional responses that may lead to biased business decisions.

As long ago as the 1950s, concerned American citizens claimed that Muzak practiced “brainwashing” with its planned musical sequences in quarter-hour segments.

Muzak Stimulus ProgressionMuzak’s playlist is synchronized to time of day to “increase energy” at predicted low-energy times based on its patented “Stimulus Progression.
These 15-minute sequences feature about six songs with varying “stimuli values,” based on tempo, rhythm, instrumentation and orchestra size.
The next 15-minute period features silence.
Mood Media
Over a 24-hour period, tunes with higher “stimulus value” are played when people are typically “lethargic” – 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., and slower songs are played “after lunch” and at the end of the work day.
Muzak claimed that this programming “increases morale and productivity at workplaces, increase sales at supermarkets, and even dissuade potential shoplifting at department stores.”

The emotional tone of music may bias other cross-sensory judgments.
Adrian C. North, working at University of Leicester and Herriott Watt University, tested the effect of music in a supermarket on wine selections and olfactory/gustatory judgments wine’s properties.

North ensured that French accordian music or German Bierkeller brass band music were played on alternating days for two weeks at the supermarket.
French wines and German wines had similar prices and their order on the shelf was changed each day.

After 82 shoppers selected wines, an interviewer asked customers to complete a questionnaire about the purchase, including:

  • Preference for French or German wines
  • Extent to which the music brought to mind France or Germany
  • Degree to which the music influenced specific wine selection.

The results from 44 shoppers suggest that music influenced shoppers’ wine selections:  More French wine was sold when French music played (40 bottles of French wine vs 8 bottles of German wine), and more German wine was sold when German music played (22 bottles of German wine vs 12 bottles of French wine).

North concluded that barely audible music can implicitly, unconsciously affect thoughts, perceptions, decisions, and even buying action.

Charles Areni

Charles Areni

Music can trigger thoughts similar to the music’s mood, context, or speed, according to the Preference-for-prototypes model proposed by Macquarie University’s Charles Areni and David Kim of Texas Tech.

-*When have your judgments and performance been altered by ambient music?

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Mindfulness Impedes Implicit Learning, but May Enhance Explicit Learning

Chelsea Stillman

Chelsea Stillman

People typically develop habits without consciously and “mindfully” thinking about them, and habits often develop through “implicit” or unconscious learning.
Moreover, the trait of mindfulness can interfere with habit formation and pattern recognition, according to Georgetown’s Chelsea Stillman, Alyssa M. Coffin, James H. Howard and Darlene Howard.

Chelsea Stillman-Triplet Learning TaskMany recent studies linking positive outcomes to increased mindfulness, so this caveat may be surprising.

James Howard

James Howard

Adult volunteers completed an inventory that assessed their degree of mindfulness as a character trait rather than as a transient state.
They also completed either an alternating serial reaction time task or a triplet-learning task using colored circles to assess their ability to learn complex, probabilistic patterns.

Darlene Howard

Darlene Howard

Those who scored high on trait mindfulness were less effective in detecting and learning the patterns than those with lower mindfulness scores.

Stillman concluded that high attention and awareness of stimuli may inhibit implicit learning, suggesting many questions about situations in which mindfulness is most effective.

Previous blog posts noted that mind wandering may have other virtues, like enabling innovative problems solving.

Travis Proulx

Travis Proulx

Implicit learning, such as required to develop habits, is helped by “unrelated meaning threats” in addition to mindlessness, according to Tilburg University’s Travis Proulx and Steven J. Heine of University of British Columbia.

They provided volunteers with an “unrelated meaning threat” in a short story by Franz Kafka or in a task requiring participants to “argue against one’s own self-unity.” Other participants received no “unrelated meaning threat” to serve as a comparison group.

Steven Heine

Steven Heine

Those who received the threat showed increased detection of patterns within letter strings and better performance on a artificial-grammar learning task, in which they detected a novel pattern embedded in the letter strings.

Proulx and Heine concluded that people may use association patterns unrelated to the original meaning threat when trying to maintain meaning, which they called the “meaning-maintenance model.

Gavriel Solomon

Gavriel Solomon

Differing findings were reported by University of Haifa’s Gavriel Solomon and Tamar Globerson of Tel Aviv University, who found that mindfulness may augment explicit rather than implicit learning.
They argued that
effortful, volitional mindful attention is a key contributor to learning and bridging “the know-doing gap,” described by Stanford’s Jeffrey Pfeffer, supporting recent “pro-mindfulness” findings.

Jeffrey Pfeffer

Jeffrey Pfeffer

-*How do you use mindfulness and mindlessness to enhance learning and creative problem solving?

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