BOOK REVIEW: A Study of Thinking

"A Study of Thinking"

I have the first edition. A Study of Thinking, Jerome S. Bruner, Jacqueline J. Goodnow, and George A. Austin;John Wiley & Sons, Inc.,1956.

This book looks very meaty and will take a lot of study. It is "still hailed as a major contribution to our understanding of the mind;", "Groundbreaking; "Pioneering".

From the first paragraph of Chapter 3, "The Process of Concept Attainment":

"The transition experience between "not having" (a concept) and "having it" seems to be without experiential content."

It is true that the transition experience is always unconscious, although the experience of activating the "Shh" Tract can be either conscious or unconscious. One can consciously and deliberately make the unconscious experience happen!

"It is an enigmatic process and often a sudden process". Something happens quickly and one thinks one has found something."

Absolutely true!

But "It is curiously difficult to recapture pre-conceptual innocence."

This is wrong. In fact, it is very easy to recapture pre-conceptual innocence! The mind has a special tract just to allow this! "Shh" Tract. It is not overly hard to learn to use this brain system! That is why it is there! If the brain could not recapture pre-conceptual innocence, it could never process the new and unheard of, which would defeat the brain's whole purpose.

BOOK REVIEW: Arthur S. Reber, Implicit Learning and Tacit Knowledge, An Essay (Part 2)

Children and Declarative Knowledge

Dr. Reber notes that young children acquire huge amounts of information "relatively independently of conscious attempts to acquire it and without much in the way of conscious knowledge of what they have learned", sometimes much better than older children "who tend to engage in more explicit-type learning." However, it seems that older children do better on "the explicit task." Reber, Implicit Learning and Tacit Knowledge, 1003, pp. 94-97.

This is certainly in line with Shh Tract's claim that language is not necessary for cognition and can actually interfere with cognition. And that explicit learning (although "supported by conscious strategies for acquisition" (Ibid, p. 97) is not cognition at all. The basic fact is this: Explicit learning does not add to our procedural, or tacit, store of knowledge. It only adds to our "declarative knowledge." Declarative knowledge can be tentative knowledge gained by attempting to identify what is stored in our own cognitive unconscious, or it can be tentative knowledge borrowed from other people. But if "cognition" is our own personal knowing of "the outside world" (Shh Tract), explicit learning adds nothing to what is already in our cognitive unconscious..

American kindergartners readily learn Mandarin (See "Mastering Mandarin", San Francisco Chronicle, April 17, 2012). But it is almost impossible for adults to do so, probably because Mandarin has been rendered into English ("pin yin"). Adults just don't (or perhaps can't) listen.

BOOK REVIEW: Penguin Dictionary of Psychology (Part 2)

Declarative Knowledge and Procedural Knowledge

Dr. Reber defines "declarative knowledge" as "knowledge about the world that can be represented as consciously known, factual knowledge." He distinguishes this from "procedural knowledge," defined as "knowledge about how to do something." "Unlike declarative knowledge, procedural knowledge "lies outside an individual's realm of consciousness and might include knowing how to speak a language or how to tie a knot." Reber, Dictionary of Psychology, Third Edition, p. 381.

"Declarative knowledge" is acquired through "explicit learning". "Procedural knowledge" is acquired through "implicit learning."

BOOK REVIEW: Arthur S. Reber, Implicit Learning and Tacit Knowledge, An Essay

Science and the "Cognitive Unconscious"

It's very surprising that there is a scientific dispute as to whether the "cognitive unconscious" even exists, and that many scientists are preoccupied with trying to prove experimentally that it does exist.

About this controversy, see Arthur S. Reber,"Implicit Learning and Tacit Knowledge, An Essay on the Cognitive Unconscious," (188 pages), Oxford University Press (Clarendon Press), 1993.

The "cognitive unconscious" is not even unconscious. Perhaps it is thought to be unconscious because it doesn't come ready-equipped with words to describe its contents.

The truth is that the "cognitive unconscious" is the main component of "consciousness". We are always aware of this tacit body of knowledge and we spend most of our time trying to communicate what we 'see' in it. The very purpose of words is just to try to communicate the contents of the "cognitive unconscious". We ourselves try, often erroneously, to communicate this with words, and we have at our fingertips words from many thoughtful people of many past generations' attempts to describe their own cognitive unconsciousness.

In fact, we aren't really in the position of perceiving the "outside world" at all. The "cognitive unconscious" perceives the outside world. It has "a mind of its own". What we ourselves are conscious of is merely the "cognitive unconscious". We "see" the outside world through the prism of the "cognitive unconscious."

Arthur Reber and other advocates of the "cognitive unconscious" believe that this "unconscious" builds up its abstract knowledge completely unbeknownst to us. It is true that this building-up process is indeed unconscious and not subject to our control.

But we can induce it to build up. How? This is what Shh Tract is about.

Once we realize that what we are conscious of is not the "outside world" but only the (supposedly unconscious)"cognitive unconscious" (I call it the Conceptual Structure), we can clearly see that all we can do to help with our "perception of the outside world" is to get out of the way: to not get between the "cognitive unconscious" and the "outside world". We must develop the skill of just allowing the "cognitive unconscious" to do its job.

"Implicit learning" (learning by the "cognitive unconscious" can only take place when both implicit and explicit knowledge ("knowledge" in words) is suppressed and the "cognitive unconscious" can "see the outside world" completely anew, with "new eyes". The fact that we have the ability to momentarily suppress all our existing knowledge is what leads me to surmise that the "cognitive unconscious" is equipped with its own neural learning tract: "Shh Tract".

But what to make of a scientific dispute over the very existence of the Conceptual Structure?!!

BOOK REVIEW: Penguin Dictionary of Psychology

Professor Reber is the author of a Dictionary of Psychology

Here are a few entries:

"Implicit Learning": A term coined by A.S. Reber for learning that takes place largely independent of awareness of both the process of acquisition and the content of the knowledge so acquired. Material that has been learned in this fashion, often termed "procedural knowledge", can be used to guide behavior, make decisions and solve problems, although the individual is tyically unaware of the complex knowledge held that enables him or her to act in this fashion.

"Explicit Learning": Learning that takes place consciously and results in knowledge that is available to consciousness; learning of which one is aware.