Source: Deferred Feedback Sharply Dissociates Implicit and Explicit Category Learning by J. David Smith, Joseph Boomer, Alexandria C. Zakrzewski, Jessica L. Roeder, Barbara A. Church, and F. Gregory Ashby Psychological Science 2014, Vol. 25(2) 447-457
|Information-integration learning||Rule-based learning|
|“Life” learning||“School” learning|
|Implicit learning: you can’t necessarily put what you’ve learned in words (& if you can, words come to you later)||Explicit learning: you can put what you’ve learned in words|
|Intuition, everyday categories (good versus bad, dog versus cat), social rules, habit||Formal concepts, theories, disciplines, etc.|
|Learns relatively slowly||Learns quickly|
|Can’t learn “offline” (learning stops after a “lesson” is over)||Can learn “offline” (learning continues after a lesson is over)|
|Must have immediate feedback – students must know whether their answer was right or wrong after each answer or no learning occurs||Can learn with delayed feedback – students can get their tests back days later and still learn from their mistakes)|
|Can learn several things at the same time (e.g.: can learn the orientation and the width of a visual stimulus)||Can learn just one thing at a time (can learn the orientation or the width of a stimulus, but not both at the same time)|
I’ve been mulling Smith et al’s Deferred Feedback Sharply Dissociates Implicit and Explicit Category Learning since the summer of 2014, when it was published (press release here). It’s life altering.
This study probably proves, finally, that we have two separate and distinct learning systems inside our brains.
Psychologists and cognitive scientists have been talking about “dual systems” and “dual systems theory” forever, but no one had nailed it down. Now they have.
The two systems are separate and distinct in the sense that if you turn one system “off” the other still learns. They’re “dissociable.”
And: the 2 systems learn differently.
“Deferred feedback” looks at category-learning, but as far as I can tell both systems can and do learn anything, including physical skills.
The chart is correct (I think), but it says nothing about the relationship between the two learning systems–which no one seems to understand yet.
So, while I’ve put “vocabulary” under explicit learning, I’m fairly sure vocabulary can also be picked up via implicit learning.
And given what I’ve seen in the L2 literature about grammar learning, it seems clear that some explicit learning helps with grammar, too–at least, with the kind of grammar you use in formal writing, as well as with learning the grammar of a second language.
Obviously, no one learns the conversational grammar of his or her native language at school.
In short, the two systems seem both to compete and to support each other in some way no one has worked out. [update 1/14/2019: Yes, the 2 systems compete.]