Skip to main content
×
Home
    • Aa
    • Aa

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
Linked references
Hide All

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Simard, D., & Wong, W. (2001). Alertness, orientation, and detection: The conceptualization of attentional functions in SLA. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 23, 103124.

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., & 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: 6
Total number of PDF views: 190 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 357 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 23rd June 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.