I examine the phenomenon of implicit learning, the process by which knowledge about the rule-governed complexities of the stimulus environment is acquired independently of conscious attempts to do so. Our research with the two seemingly disparate experimental paradigms of synthetic grammar learning and probability learning, is reviewed and integrated with other approaches to the general problem of unconscious cognition. The conclusions reached are as follows: Implicit learning produces a tacit knowledge base that is abstract and representative of the structure of (...) the environment; such knowledge is optimally acquired independently of conscious efforts to learn; and it can be used implicitly to solve problems and make accurate decisions about novel stimulus circumstances. Various epistemological issues and related problems such as intuition, neuroclinical disorders of learning and memory, and the relationship of evolutionary processes to cognitive science are also discussed. (shrink)
In this new volume in the Oxford Psychology Series, the author presents a highly readable account of the cognitive unconscious, focusing in particular on the problem of implicit learning. Implicit learning is defined as the acquisition of knowledge that takes place independently of the conscious attempts to learn and largely in the absence of explicit knowledge about what was acquired. One of the core assumptions of this argument is that implicit learning is a fundamental, "root" process, one that lies at (...) the very heart of the adaptive behavioral repertoire of every complex organism. The author's goals are to outline the essential features of implicit learning that have emerged from the many studies that have been carried out in a variety of experimental laboratories over the past several decades; to present the various alternative perspectives on this issue that have been proposed by other researchers and to try to accommodate these views with his own; to structure the literature so that it can be seen in the context of standard heuristics of evolutionary biology; to present the material within a functionalist approach and to try to show why the experimental data should be seen as entailing particular epistemological perspectives; and to present implicit processing as encompassing a general and ubiquitous set of operations that have wide currency and several possible applications. Chapter 1 begins with the core problem under consideration in this book, a characterization of "implicit learning" as it has come to be used in the literature. Reber puts this seemingly specialized topic into a general framework and suggests a theoretical model based on standard heuristics of evolutionary biology. In his account, Reber weaves a capsule history of interest in and work on the cognitive unconscious. Chapter 2 turns to a detailed overview of the experimental work on the acquisition of implicit knowledge, which currently is of great interest. Chapter 3 develops the evolutionary model within which one can see learning and cognition as richly intertwining issues and not as two distinct fields with one dominating the other. Finally, Chapter 4 explores a variety of entailments and speculations concerning implicit cognitive processes and their general role in the larger scope of human performance. (shrink)
In recent decades it has become increasingly clear that a substantial amount of cognitive work goes on independent of consciousness. The research has been carried out largely under two rubrics, implicit learning and implicit memory. The former has been concerned primarily with the acquisition of knowledge independent of awareness and the latter with the manner in which memories not readily available to conscious recall or recognition play a role in behavior; collectively these operations comprise the essential functions of the cognitive (...) unconscious. This paper reviews the recent history of work on these issues, identifies some of the problems confronting researchers, and introduces a theoretical framework based on principles of evolutionary biology within which to view them. The argument is that the cognitive unconscious, despite its apparent sophistication, is of considerable evolutionary antiquity and antedates conscious cognitive systems by a considerable amount of time. Various entailments of this evolutionary perspective are explored including such issues as phylogeny and ontogeny of implicit processes, the robustness of the implicit functions as displayed by the capacity to resist disruptions from psychological and neurological disorders, the relationship between implicit cognition and intelligence, and individual differences in implicit cognitive abilities. (shrink)
This paper is an attempt to put the work of the past several decades on the problems of implicit learning and unconscious cognition into an evolutionary context. Implicit learning is an inductive process whereby knowledge of a complex environment is acquired and used largely independently of awareness of either the process of acquisition or the nature of that which has been learned. Characterized this way, implicit learning theory can be viewed as an attempt to come to grips with the classic (...) epistemological issues of knowledge acquisition, representation and use. The argument is made that the process, despite its seeming cognitive sophistication, is of considerable evolutionary antiquity and that it antedates awareness and the capacity for conscious control of mentation. Various classic heuristics from evolutionary biology are used to substantiate this claim and several specific entailments of this line of argument are outlined. (shrink)
Recently, American Psychologist published a review of the evidence for parapsychology that supported the general claims of psi (the umbrella term often used for anomalous or paranormal phenomena). We present an opposing perspective and a broad-based critique of the entire parapsychology enterprise. Our position is straightforward. Claims made by parapsychologists cannot be true. The effects reported can have no ontological status; the data have no existential value. We examine a variety of reasons for this conclusion based on well-understood scientific principles. (...) In the classic English adynaton, “pigs cannot fly.” Hence, data that suggest that they can are necessarily flawed and result from weak methodology or improper data analyses or are Type I errors. So it must be with psi effects. What we find particularly intriguing is that, despite the existential impossibility of psi phenomena and the nearly 150 years of efforts during which there has been, literally, no progress, there are still scientists who continue to embrace the pursuit. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2022 APA, all rights reserved). (shrink)
The Cellular Basis of Consciousness theory places the first appearance of sentience at the emergence of life. It makes the radical, and previously unexplored, claim that prokaryotes, like bacteria, possess a primitive form of consciousness. The implications of the theory for the philosophy of mind, cell-biology, and cognitive neurosciences are explored.
Our comment is based on a simple but, we believe, compelling principle. The proposed cognitive processes and functions that are components of Jablonka and Ginsburg’s Unlimited Associative Learning (UAL) are real and are fundamental elements in the varieties of consciousness, cognition, problem solving, and sentience in the species they identify. But, from our perspective, they didn’t function as the metaphoric biomolecular ship that brought consciousness into being. The UAL functions are, and should be viewed as, evolutionary steps that built upon (...) a deeper and much older cognitive foundation. The appearance of UAL didn’t allow consciousness to emerge. It allowed it to change the manner in which sentience was instantiated − just as a host of other evolutionary developments did. In short, the emergence of UAL is a _token_ on a continuum of mental experience and not a distinct _type_ of mentation. (shrink)
Cellular circadian clocks represent ancient anticipatory systems which co‐evolved with the first cells to safeguard their survival. Cyanobacteria represent one of the most ancient cells, having essentially invented photosynthesis together with redox‐based cellular circadian clocks some 2.7 billion years ago. Bioelectricity phenomena, based on redox homeostasis associated electron transfers in membranes and within protein complexes inserted in excitable membranes, play important roles, not only in the cellular circadian clocks and in anesthetics‐sensitive cellular sentience (awareness of environment), but also in the (...) coupling of single cells into tissues and organs of unitary multicellular organisms. This integration of cellular circadian clocks with cellular basis of sentience is an essential feature of the cognitive CBC‐Clock basis of cellular life. (shrink)
Psycholinguistics re-emerged in an almost explosive fashion during the 1950s and 1960s. It then underwent an equally abrupt decline as an independent sub-discipline. This paper charts this fall and identifies five general factors which, it is argued, were responsible for its demise. These are: (a) an uncompromisingly strong version of nativism; (b) a growing isolation of psycholinguistics from the body psychology; (c) a preference for formal theory over empirical data; (d) several abrupt modifications in the Standard Theory in linguistics; and (...) (e) a failure to appreciate the strong commitment to functionalism that characterizes experimental psychology. In short, what looked like a revolution two decades ago turned out to be merely a local reformation that occurred along side of and largely independent from the real revolution in the cognitive sciences. (shrink)
We are sympathic with LeDoux’s primary goal here ─ to get a solid scientific grip on what has been dubbed one of the most elusive, important questions in scientific discourse, to identify the underlying biomolecular processes that give rise to consciousness. However, we have issues with the way he goes about it and have tried to present them in a constructive manner. Our commentary is built around our theory of the origins of minds, dubbed the Cellular Basis of Consciousness (CBC), (...) and the empirical research that supports it. The CBC is based on the proposition that life and sentience are co-terminous, that life without subjectivity, feeling, without valenced perception, without the capacity to learn and lay down memories would have been an evolutionary dead-end. It could not have survived in the hostile, chaotic world in flux that dominated our planet four billion years ago. The biological sciences operate on the principle that all species, extant and extinct, evolved from the first prokaryotes. The CBC theory is founded on the principle that all expressions of emotion, perception, and cognition did as well. (shrink)
There is no dispute over the existence of functions and processes that operate outside consciousness. No one knows what his or her liver is doing, and we all shed a tear when Lassie comes home, even though we know we are watching a movie with a dog who responds to off‐camera signals. Where matters become interesting (and contentious) is over such issues as whether unconscious processes are routinized and inflexible – in a word, stupid – or whether they can be (...) seen as sophisticated, flexible, and adaptive – in a word, intelligent. In the cognitive sciences, until recently, the former perspective dominated for reasons which are rooted not in any objective data base, but in philosophical considerations. The long‐standing presumption of a not‐very‐bright unconscious is, we suspect, the end product of a continuing adherence to Lockean and Cartesian epistemic traditions. While proponents of these two orientations didn't agree on much, they were of one mind with regard to the proposition that that which is mental is conscious. Contemporary psychologists and philosophers who feel comfortable with this position tend to view unconscious cognitive processes as low‐level, crude, primitively connectionistic, and rather stupid, since they equate sophisticated control operations with the functions of consciousness. (shrink)
The material in "TCU," as we've come to refer to this volume, began as a Master's Thesis that examined the manner in which knowledge of fairly complex, patterned material could be acquired without any conscious effort to learn it and with little to no awareness of what had been learned. It was dubbed implicit learning and, over a fifty-plus year span, became a vigorously researched area in the social sciences. TCU brings together several dozen scientists from a variety of backgrounds (...) and presents a broad (and deep) overview of how the exploration of the cognitive unconscious grew from that first study to a domain of research to which contributions have been made by sociologists, neuroscientists, evolutionary biologists, modelers, social and organizational psychologists, sport psychologists, primatologists, developmentalists, linguists, psychiatrists and psychotherapists, and measurement and assessment researchers. The core message seems fairly straightforward. Unconscious, implicit cognitive processes play a role in virtually everything interesting that human beings do. The implicit and explicit elements of cognition form a rich and complex interactive framework that make up who we are. The volume has contributions from over 30 distinguished authors from nine different countries and gives a balanced and thorough overview of where the field is today, a bit over a half-century since the first experiments were run. (shrink)
The dominant position in the field of artificial intelligence (AI) is computationalism where the operative principle is that cognition in general and consciousness in particular can be captured by identification of the proper set of computations. This position has been attacked from several angles, most effectively, in my opinion, by John Searle in his now famous Chinese Room thought experiment. I critique this Searlean perspective on the grounds that, while it is probably correct in its essentials, it does not go (...) far enough. Quite simply, it runs afoul of the problem of emergentism. The proffered solution to this problem is that consciousness (or very rudimentary forms of it) needs to be viewed as an inherent property of organic form. While this recasting of the problem solves the emergentist dilemma it opens up a number of other issues. However, the new problems, unlike the old, appear in principle to be amenable to scientific analysis. (shrink)
Perruchet & Vinter's article, for all its breadth and scope, has several deep problems: specifically, an eccentric notion of rule, a narrow notion of what it means for a mental instantiation to be abstract, and a failure to take into account fundamental principles of evolutionary biology. While not the only problems, these three are sufficient to seriously weaken their arguments.