Re: [xmca] Material cognition

From: Martin Packer <packer who-is-at>
Date: Tue Oct 30 2007 - 14:58:40 PDT


I'm sure I was over-stating their neglect. But is the study of implicit
learning more than simply looking for mental representations which don't
make it to consciousness, rather than looking for a form of learning which
is non-representational?


On 10/30/07 1:45 PM, "David H Kirshner" <> wrote:

> Martin,
> Not sure I can speak to the latter part of your question, however, in
> recent years tacit knowledge--and more spectacularly, tacit
> learning--has made considerable headway in mainstream psychology within
> the "implicit learning" paradigm. In the first study in this paradigm
> Arthur Reber (1967) exposed subjects to multiple instances of apparently
> random stimuli, that actually were generated by a complex mathematical
> algorithm. He demonstrated that subjects are able to exploit
> regularities in the task domain, without awareness that they had learned
> anything.
> His work in this genre languished for almost two decades before it was
> picked up as an important window into cognitive functioning (see Stadler
> & Frensch, 1997, for a review). In my opinion, this hiatus reflects the
> grounding of mainstream cognitive science in dualist framings that
> assume intellectual skills are rooted in conscious representations.
> Toward the mid-1980s, as cognitive science's underlying assumptions were
> becoming more subject to critique, the significance of Reber's findings
> could be better appreciated. (Reber's, 1993, own summation of this genre
> interprets implicit learning in terms of connectionist architectures
> that resist many classical assumptions of cognitive science.)
> What is interesting is the continuing fetishizing that goes on around
> the question of just how tacit is this learning (e.g., Berry, 1997).
> There has been momentous energy invested in showing at least a hint of
> conscious recognition of some underlying structure (lest we become too
> far removed from the authority of consciousness).
> David
> Berry, D.C. (Ed.) (1997). How implicit is implicit learning?.
> Oxford: Oxford University Press.
> Mathews, R. C. (in press). Implicit learning: Attacking the
> authoritarian view of mind. Contemporary Psychology.
> Reber, A. S. (1967). Implicit learning of artificial grammars.
> Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior, 6, 855-863.
> Reber, A. S. (1993). Implicit learning and tacit knowledge: An
> essay on the cognitive unconscious (Oxford Psychology Series No. 19).
> Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press; New York: Clarendon Press.
> Stadler, M. A., & Frensch, P. A. (Eds.) (1997). Handbook of
> implicit learning. Thousands Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
> -----Original Message-----
> From: []
> On Behalf Of Martin Packer
> Sent: Tuesday, October 30, 2007 10:01 AM
> To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
> Subject: Re: [xmca] Material cognition
> Once again a thread on XMCA has intersected with something I'm currently
> working on. I'm feeling stupid, so let me just throw out a question,
> perhaps
> provocative, perhaps dumb. How do we reconcile the fact that tacit
> knowledge
> is undoubtedly important but neglected by much mainstream research (and
> devalued in society) with the suggestion that participation in the
> practices
> of modern society leads to MISunderstanding how that society works
> (false
> consciousness, alienation, etc.)?
> Martin
>> All of these hover around my central interest, which is the often
> unspoken
>> (sometimes called "tacit") knowledge that people working develop and
> share
>> about how to get the work done. For example: a class which we have
> been
>> asked to teach in November will take place at a plant where the
> workers are
>> represented by the grainmillers' union. This is an old plant. Under
> the
>> original management, the workers essentially ran the plant -- they had
> the
>> knowledge and the means to run the plant efficiently and safely. Then
> the
>> plant was sold and new management came in. This new management took an
>> adversarial position against the union and attempted to take over
> control of
>> the work without fully understanding how it was done (without
> exploring the
>> social practices related to the working knowledge of the plant?). A
> bitter,
>> non-productive culture developed. Now another new management has taken
> over,
>> and this new management has gone to the union and together they have
>> approached us to teach a class to the supervisors that is essentially
> about
>> getting them to respect the working material knowledge that the
> workers have
>> developed. "Leave us alone and we'll run the plant better than you can
> ever
>> do it," the union is saying.
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