Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Reward Elicits Unconscious Learning In Humans

Date:
March 16, 2009
Source:
Cell Press
Summary:
A new study challenges the prevailing assumption that you must pay attention to something in order to learn it. The research demonstrates that stimulus-reward pairing can elicit visual learning in adults, even without awareness of the stimulus presentation or reward contingencies.

A new study challenges the prevailing assumption that you must pay attention to something in order to learn it. The research, published in the March 12th issue of the journal Neuron, demonstrates that stimulus-reward pairing can elicit visual learning in adults, even without awareness of the stimulus presentation or reward contingencies.

Related Articles


"Recent studies have raised the question of whether visual skill learning requires an active goal directed process or whether learning can occur automatically without any task, stimulus awareness, or goal directed behavior," says study author Dr. Aaron Seitz from the Department of Psychology at the University of California, Riverside. Dr. Seitz and colleagues Drs. Dongho Kim and Takeo Watanabe from Boston University designed a novel experimental paradigm to take the "task" out of perceptual learning.

Study participants were asked to view a computer monitor, maintain their gaze on a central spot and enjoy the occasional drop of water that was delivered to their mouths through a tube. The drop of water was considered a reward because subjects were required to abstain from eating and drinking for five hours before the experimental session. The visual stimuli that were paired with the liquid rewards were viewed with one eye and were imperceptible to the subjects because contour rich patterns were continuously flashed to the other eye.

"The use of this procedure allowed us to examine the specific hypothesis that reward-related learning signals are sufficient to cause improvements in visual sensitivity for visual stimuli paired with rewards," explains Dr. Seitz. The researchers found that stimulus-reward pairing was sufficient to cause learning, even when the subject was not aware of the learned stimuli or stimulus-reward conditions. The learning effects were specific to the eye receiving the stimuli, a condition indicative of an early, monocular stage of visual processing.

These results suggest that automatic reinforcement mechanisms (such as those released at times of reward), rather than directed attention, determine improvements in sensory skills.

"Our findings support the suggestion that visual skill learning is generally an unconscious process and that goal-directed factors, such as directed attention, serve mostly to bias how learning takes place rather than actually gating the learning process," hypothesizes Dr. Seitz. The authors are careful to acknowledge that future studies are required.

The researchers include Aaron R. Seitz, Boston University, Boston, MA, University of California, Riverside, Riverside, CA; Dongho Kim, Boston University, Boston, MA, University of California, Riverside, Riverside, CA; and Takeo Watanabe, Boston University, Boston, MA.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Cell Press. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Cell Press. "Reward Elicits Unconscious Learning In Humans." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 16 March 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090311124016.htm>.
Cell Press. (2009, March 16). Reward Elicits Unconscious Learning In Humans. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 28, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090311124016.htm
Cell Press. "Reward Elicits Unconscious Learning In Humans." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090311124016.htm (accessed November 28, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Mind & Brain News

Friday, November 28, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Are Female Bosses More Likely To Be Depressed?

Are Female Bosses More Likely To Be Depressed?

Newsy (Nov. 24, 2014) — A new study links greater authority with increased depressive symptoms among women in the workplace. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Winter Can Cause Depression — Here's How To Combat It

Winter Can Cause Depression — Here's How To Combat It

Newsy (Nov. 23, 2014) — Millions of American suffer from seasonal depression every year. It can lead to adverse health effects, but there are ways to ease symptoms. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Could Your Genes Be The Reason You're Single?

Could Your Genes Be The Reason You're Single?

Newsy (Nov. 21, 2014) — Researchers in Beijing discovered a gene called 5-HTA1, and carriers are reportedly 20 percent more likely to be single. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Milestone Birthdays Can Bring Existential Crisis, Study Says

Milestone Birthdays Can Bring Existential Crisis, Study Says

Newsy (Nov. 21, 2014) — Researchers find that as people approach new decades in their lives they make bigger life decisions. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins