Implicit Learning of Complex Visual Contexts Under Non-Optimal Conditions
Final rept. 1 Jul 2004-30 Jun 2007
HARVARD UNIV CAMBRIDGE MA
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The human cognitive system is stunningly powerful in some respects yet surprisingly limited in others. We can recognize an object or a face in a single glimpse and type 70 words per minute, yet we cannot hold more than a few objects at a time in visual working memory or split our attention to several locations. Attention and working memory impose major capacity limitations in cognitive processing. This ARO funded project examines the role of implicit learning in overcoming cognitive limitations. It hinges on the observation that humans process a visual display more quickly when it is encountered for a second time. The project addresses three fundamental properties about spatial learning. First, does learning have a capacity limit Second, is learning reduced when attention is tied up by a secondary load Third, how much does the learning ability vary across individuals, and what are the cognitive and brain mechanisms that separate good learners from poor learners We found that spatial context learning is automatic, flexible, has high capacity, and applies to most individuals. This mechanism can potentially overcome cognitive limitations in human attention and working memory, and may assist soldiers in spatial navigation.
- Anatomy and Physiology