Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Subliminal sights educate brain

25.10.2001


Today’s busy world could overwhealm our ever-learning brains.
© Photodisc


Paying attention isn’t the only way to learn.

You must pay attention to learn, teachers say. Not necessarily, US psychologists now argue: sights we are unaware of can have a lasting impact on our brains.

Subliminal training can improve our ability to see moving dots, Takeo Watanabe and his co-workers at Boston University, Massachusetts, have found. "Without noticing, we are unconsciously learning," Watanabe says. Repeated exposure to objects we are oblivious to "could have a tremendous effect on our brains", he says.



The findings show that for basic visual processes "the brain is never resting", says Robert Stickgold, who studies consciousness at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Psychologists must now ask whether we can learn more complex tasks without paying attention, says Stickgold. Although for students looking to skip school he cautions that "No one’s going to learn a foreign language without going to lessons."

Live and learn

We are learning automatically as we walk around, explains Ken Nakayama, who studies vision at Harvard. "Patterns pass us all the time," he says, like cars and people on the street. Subconscious learning may be an efficient way to absorb these sideline features without trying. "You can’t pay attention to everything," he says.

Such a learning strategy may have evolved to help us incorporate recurrent, and therefore important, information about our environment into our memory, thinks Watanabe. Animal movements are a good example.

The results also suggest we cannot screen out irrelevant, unwanted information. This is worrying, given that today we are bombarded with moving images from TVs, neon signs and even mobile phone displays. "The less the world we’re living in is like the one we evolved in, the more the mechanism is inappropriate," says Stickgold.

Join the dots

Watanabe’s team asked subjects to look at letters on a screen. Surrounding the letters were dots moving randomly, like the background fuzz after TV programmes have ended for the night. The participants did not realise that 5% of the dots were moving consistently in one direction.

After 25 days of subliminal training, people were tested on their ability to see a detectable level (10%) of dots moving in one direction. They were 20% better than normal at seeing the movement orientation they had previously been exposed to1.

Certain features of an object, such as movement or colour, make nerve cells in the brain fire. Subliminal training may fine-tune these cells, making them especially sensitive to a particular direction of motion, the team thinks.

References
  1. Watanabe, T., Nanez, J.E. & Sasaki, Y. Perceptual learning without perception. Nature, 413, 844 - 848, (2001).


HELEN PEARSON | Nature News Service
Further information:
http://www.nature.com/nsu/011025/011025-12.html
http://www.nature.com/nsu/

More articles from Interdisciplinary Research:

nachricht Fighting myocardial infarction with nanoparticle tandems
04.12.2017 | Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn

nachricht Virtual Reality for Bacteria
01.12.2017 | Institute of Science and Technology Austria

All articles from Interdisciplinary Research >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Scientists decipher key principle behind reaction of metalloenzymes

So-called pre-distorted states accelerate photochemical reactions too

What enables electrons to be transferred swiftly, for example during photosynthesis? An interdisciplinary team of researchers has worked out the details of how...

Im Focus: The first precise measurement of a single molecule's effective charge

For the first time, scientists have precisely measured the effective electrical charge of a single molecule in solution. This fundamental insight of an SNSF Professor could also pave the way for future medical diagnostics.

Electrical charge is one of the key properties that allows molecules to interact. Life itself depends on this phenomenon: many biological processes involve...

Im Focus: Paradigm shift in Paris: Encouraging an holistic view of laser machining

At the JEC World Composite Show in Paris in March 2018, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be focusing on the latest trends and innovations in laser machining of composites. Among other things, researchers at the booth shared with the Aachen Center for Integrative Lightweight Production (AZL) will demonstrate how lasers can be used for joining, structuring, cutting and drilling composite materials.

No other industry has attracted as much public attention to composite materials as the automotive industry, which along with the aerospace industry is a driver...

Im Focus: Room-temperature multiferroic thin films and their properties

Scientists at Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) and Tohoku University have developed high-quality GFO epitaxial films and systematically investigated their ferroelectric and ferromagnetic properties. They also demonstrated the room-temperature magnetocapacitance effects of these GFO thin films.

Multiferroic materials show magnetically driven ferroelectricity. They are attracting increasing attention because of their fascinating properties such as...

Im Focus: A thermometer for the oceans

Measurement of noble gases in Antarctic ice cores

The oceans are the largest global heat reservoir. As a result of man-made global warming, the temperature in the global climate system increases; around 90% of...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

10th International Symposium: “Advanced Battery Power – Kraftwerk Batterie” Münster, 10-11 April 2018

08.01.2018 | Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

White graphene makes ceramics multifunctional

16.01.2018 | Materials Sciences

Breaking bad metals with neutrons

16.01.2018 | Materials Sciences

ISFH-CalTeC is “designated test centre” for the confirmation of solar cell world records

16.01.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>