Unconscious processes influencing learning

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Abstract:

This paper reviews recent experimental evidence on the active involvement of non-conscious processes in human functioning and examines the contribution of this evidence to understanding learning. The experimental concept of 'unconscious processing' is compared to the psychoanalytic notion of the 'unconscious' and some relationships between the two concepts are pointed out. The general idea stemming from experimental research is that, in parallel with what goes on at the conscious level, non-conscious dynamic processes have a very strong impact both in the process and the outcome of learning. Information, which in milliseconds is non-consciously assessed as threatening to the learner's psychological balance, may be disguised or blocked from further processing, therefore affecting the learner's educational competence. The educational material, relationship or atmosphere may provoke non-conscious emotions, attitudes and intentions, which 'inflate' cognition and can affect the individual's current processing of information in various (inhibiting or enhancing) ways. By carefully observing the points where the individual learner is blocked in the 'here and now', the teacher or therapist may deduce useful information on the issues that may unconsciously inhibit learning.
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