Skip to main content
×
Home

LEARNING WITHOUT AWARENESS

  • John N. Williams (a1)
Abstract

Two experiments examined the learning of form-meaning connections under conditions where the relevant forms were noticed but the critical aspects of meaning were not. Miniature noun class systems were employed, and the participants were told that the choice of determiner in noun phrases depended on whether the object was “near” or “far” from the subject of the sentence. What they were not told was that the choice of determiner also depended on the animacy of the noun. Most participants remained unaware of this correlation during the training and test tasks; yet when faced with a choice between two determiners for a noun, they chose the one that was appropriate to the noun's animacy at significantly above-chance levels, even though that combination had never been encountered during training. This ability to generalize provided evidence of learning form-meaning connections without awareness. In both experiments, there was a correlation between generalization test performance and knowledge of languages that encode grammatical gender. This points to the importance of prior knowledge in implicit learning.Many thanks to Ronald Leow, Daphnée Simard, and the anonymous SSLA reviewers for their helpful comments on an earlier draft of this article.

Copyright
Corresponding author
John N. Williams, Research Centre for English and Applied Linguistics, University of Cambridge, 9 West Road, Cambridge, CB3 9DP, UK; e-mail: jnw12@cam.ac.uk
References
Hide All

REFERENCES

Block, N. (2001). Paradox and cross purposes in recent work on consciousness. Cognition, 79, 197219.
Braine, M. D. S., Brody, R. E., Brooks, P. D., Sudhalter, V., Ross, J. E., Catalano, L., & Fisch, S. M. (1990). Exploring language acquisition in children with a miniature artificial language: Effects of item and pattern frequency, arbitrary subclasses, and correction. Journal of Memory and Language, 29, 591610.
Brooks, P. J., Braine, M. D. S., Catalano, L., & Brody, R. (1993). Acquisition of gender-like noun classes in an artificial language: The contribution of phonological markers to learning. Journal of Memory and Language, 32, 7695.
Carr, T. H., & Curran, T. (1994). Cognitive factors in learning about structured sequences. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 16, 205230.
Cowan, N. (1999). An embedded-processes model of working memory. In A. Miyake & P. Shah (Eds.), Models of working memory: Mechanisms of active maintenance and executive control (pp. 62101). New York: Cambridge University Press.
Dehaene, S., & Naccache, L. (2001). Towards a cognitive neuroscience of consciousness: Basic evidence and a workspace framework. Cognition, 79, 137.
DeKeyser, R. M. (1995). Learning second language grammar rules: An experiment with a miniature linguistic system. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 17, 379410.
Doughty, C., & Williams, J. (1998). Pedagogical choices in focus on form. In C. Doughty & J. Williams (Eds.), Focus on form in classroom second language acquisition (pp. 197261). New York: Cambridge University Press.
Ellis, N. C. (1994). Vocabulary acquisition: The explicit ins and outs of explicit cognitive mediation. In N. C. Ellis (Ed.), Implicit and explicit learning of languages (pp. 211282). San Diego, CA: Academic Press.
Frensch, P. A., Wenke, D., & Runger, D. (1999). A secondary tone-counting task suppresses expression of knowledge in the serial reaction task. Journal of Experimental Psychology-Learning Memory and Cognition, 25, 260274.
Frigo, L., & McDonald, J. L. (1998). Properties of phonological markers that affect the acquisition of gender-like subclasses. Journal of Memory and Language, 39, 218245.
Gabrieli, J. D. E., Cohen, N. J., & Corkin, S. (1988). The impaired learning of semantic knowledge following medial temporal lobe resection. Brain & Cognition, 7, 157177.
Goshen-Gottstein, Y., & Moscovitch, M. (1995). Repetition priming effects for newly formed associations are perceptually based: Evidence from shallow encoding and format specificity. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 21, 12491262.
Gupta, P., & Dell, G. S. (1999). The emergence of language from serial order and procedural memory. In B. MacWhinney (Ed.), The emergence of language (pp. 447481). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
Hauser, M. D., Newport, E. L., & Aslin, R. N. (2001). Segmentation of the speech stream in a non-human primate: Statistical learning in cotton-top tamarins. Cognition, 78, B53B64.
Hirst, W., Phelps, E. A., Johnson, M. K., & Volpe, B. T. (1988). Amnesia and second language learning. Brain and Cognition, 8, 105116.
Holmes, V. M., & Dejean de la Batie, B. (1999). Assignment of grammatical gender by native speakers and foreign language learners. Applied Psycholinguistics, 20, 479506.
Jiménez, L., & Méndez, C. (1999). Which attention is needed for implicit sequence learning? Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 25, 236259.
Kintsch, W. (1988). The role of knowledge in discourse comprehension: A construction-integration model. Psychological Review, 95, 163182.
Kitchener, E. G., Hodges, J. R., & McCarthy, R. (1998). Acquisition of post-morbid vocabulary and semantic facts in the absence of episodic memory. Brain, 121, 13131327.
Knowlton, B. J., & Squire, L. R. (1996). Artificial grammar learning depends on implicit acquisition of both abstract and exemplar-specific information. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 22, 169181.
Lamme, V. A. F. (2003). Why visual attention and awareness are different. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 7, 1218.
Leow, R. P. (1997). Attention, awareness, and foreign language behavior. Language Learning, 47, 467505.
Leow, R. P. (2000). A study of the role of awareness in foreign language behavior. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 22, 557584.
Logan, G. D., & Etherton, J. L. (1994). What is learned during automatization? The role of attention in constructing an instance. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory and Cognition, 20, 10221050.
Marchman, V. A., & Bates, E. (1994). Continuity in lexical and morphological development: A test of the critical mass hypothesis. Journal of Child Language, 21, 339366.
Mathews, R. C., Buss, R. R., Stanley, W. B., Blanchard-Fields, F., Cho, J.-R., & Druhan, B. (1989). The role of implicit and explicit processes in learning from examples: A synergistic effect. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 15, 10831100.
McClelland, J., & Rumelhart, D. (1985). Distributed memory and the representation of general and specific information. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 114, 159188.
Merikle, P. M., Smilek, D., & Eastwood, J. D. (2001). Perception without awareness: Perspectives from cognitive psychology. Cognition, 79, 115134.
Merriman, W. E. (1999). Competition, attention, and young children's lexical processing. In B. MacWhinney (Ed.), The emergence of language (pp. 331358). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
Reber, A. S. (1976). Implicit learning of synthetic languages: The role of instructional set. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Learning and Memory, 2, 8894.
Robinson, B. F., & Mervis, C. B. (1998). Disentangling early language development: Modeling lexical and grammatical acquisition using an extension of a case-study methodology. Developmental Psychology, 34, 363375.
Robinson, P. (1995). Attention, memory, and the “noticing” hypothesis. Language Learning, 45, 283331.
Rosa, E., & Leow, R. P. (2004). Awareness, different learning conditions, and second language development. Applied Psycholinguistics, 25, 269292.
Saffran, J. R., Newport, E. L., & Aslin, R. N. (1996). Word segmentation: The role of distributional cues. Journal of Memory and Language, 35, 606621.
Schmidt, R. (1990). The role of consciousness in second language learning. Applied Linguistics, 11, 129158.
Schmidt, R. (1994). Implicit learning and the cognitive unconscious: Of artificial grammars and SLA. In N. C. Ellis (Ed.), Implicit and explicit learning of languages (pp. 165209). San Diego, CA: Academic Press.
Schmidt, R. (2001). Attention. In P. Robinson (Ed.), Cognition and second language instruction (pp. 332). New York: Cambridge University Press.
Simard, D., & Wong, W. (2001). Alertness, orientation, and detection: The conceptualization of attentional functions in SLA. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 23, 103124.
Smith, L. B. (1999). Children's noun learning: How general learning processes make specialized learning mechanisms. In B. MacWhinney (Ed.), The emergence of language (pp. 277303). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
Taraban, R., & Kempe, V. (1999). Gender processing in native and nonnative Russian speakers. Applied Psycholinguistics, 20, 119148.
Tomlin, R. S., & Villa, V. (1994). Attention in cognitive science and second language acquisition. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 16, 183203.
Vargha-Khadem, F., Gadian, D. G., Watkins, K. E., Connelly, A., Van Paesschen, W., & Mishkin, M. (1997). Differential effects of early hippocampal pathology on episodic and semantic memory. Science, 277, 376380.
Verfaellie, M., Koseff, P., & Alexander, M. P. (2000). Acquisition of novel semantic information in lesion location. Neuropsychologia, 38, 484492.
Williams, J. N. (1999). Memory, attention, and inductive learning. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 21, 148.
Williams, J. N. (2003). Inducing abstract linguistic representations: Human and connectionist learning of noun classes. In R. H. van Hout, A. Hulk, F. Kuiken, & R. J. Towell (Eds.), The interface between syntax and the lexicon in second language acquisition (pp. 151174). Amsterdam: Benjamins.
Williams, J. N. (2004). Implicit learning of form-meaning connections. In B. VanPatten, J. Williams, S. Rott, & M. Overstreet (Eds.), Form-meaning connections in second language acquisition (pp. 203218). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
Williams, J. N., & Lovatt, P. (2003). Phonological memory and rule learning. Language Learning, 53, 67121.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Studies in Second Language Acquisition
  • ISSN: 0272-2631
  • EISSN: 1470-1545
  • URL: /core/journals/studies-in-second-language-acquisition
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
×

Metrics

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 8
Total number of PDF views: 235 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 553 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 25th November 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.