Implicit and Explicit Learning: Two Different Systems?

Topics: Learning, Memory, Brain Pages: 7 (2276 words) Published: November 25, 2012
Implicit and explicit learning: Two different systems?

Implicit and explicit learning methods have been empirically tested over many years and the debate still goes on, are they connected to one another or are they two separate systems? This essay aims to evaluate studies on both sides and come to a conclusion based on current research. Implicit learning was first defined as, how one develops intuitive knowledge about the underlying structure of a complex stimulus environment, without a conscious effort (Reber, 1967). This in Lehman’s terms is essentially unconscious learning, meaning that certain things are learned without our brain being actively used to learn them. Explicit learning on the other hand is defined by Mathers et al (1989) as being very similar to the conscious problem solving processes, this is because our brain attempts to form a mental representation of the task and searches memory for previous knowledge before testing mental models of task performance. Grant & Berg (1948) showed just how clear implicit learning is when they created the Wisconsin card-sorting test (WCST). The participants had to categorize cards but were not told how to categorize them, but only if it was right or wrong. After a few tries the participants were able to successfully match the cards to the right categories however when asked why they could not explain why they matched the card to that category, showing that this learning was done implicitly and is hard to explain how they came to that conclusion. A clear example of explicit learning is when a child is learning their math timetables because they are consciously participating in a new learning exercise. Cleeremans & Jiménez (2002) describes implicit-explicit learning as a continuum whereas Aizenstein et al (2004) suggests that different areas of the brain are active during different types of learning. As there are different types of learning, there are also different types of memory and learning and memory are inextricably linked with one another. Therefore neurologists and psychologists have argued that if there are 2 separate systems of memory then surely, as memory and learning are so closely interlinked, learning must also have a similar system (Kihlstrom, Dorfman & Park, 2007). Grammar learning has being at the centre of the majority of research as the human brain deciphers grammar through both memory and learning. This was shown in Reber (1967) study or artificial grammar learning, where he presented participants with a string of artificial sentences that have been created by using a complex set of grammatical rules. Reber concluded that while all the sentences across both groups technically made no sense, participants identified that there was a set of grammatical rules behind the sentences. When the sentences changed and some were grammatically correct and some were not, participants knew that there was something wrong about the sentence however they could not explain what this was. This is because the participants were unconsciously learning the set of rules while reading the sentence. During different types of learning, different areas of the brain become active and have increased blood flow, this presents a solid platform for a multiple system view of learning in humans. This debate has been discussed in the context of memory as well as learning systems. Goschke (1998) provides evidence for this when he studied the implicit learning of motor sequences. Goschke discovered, through brain imaging, that different domain-specific areas of the brain became active during motor sequence learning, areas that suggest the different areas of the brain become active through one learning task. Consequently proposing the theory for independent learning systems. This theory was reinforced when Aizenstein (2004) used modern technology in the form of fMRI scans to measure regional brain activity during concurrent implicit and explicit sequence learning, this study...
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