Cassidy Williams

Software Engineer in Chicago

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Subconscious Learning

One of the things I’ve done lately is try to passively learn Morse code. I added a bunch of custom vibrations for each letter of the alphabet to my phone, and when I add someone to my contact book, I assign them the custom vibration. So, as people text or call me, I’m slowly but surely learning Morse code because of their names. Now I definitely know some letters, like J and C, a lot more than others like Q or V. But hey, it’s something!

We’re all exposed to subliminal messages. Due to the massive amounts of information we’re exposed to every single day, and our limited capacity to actively, consciously register it, there’s always small changes in our minds. But, if you’re exposed to the same information again and again over time, there’s more lasting changes. So, like in my example above, I’ve been constantly hearing vibrations for people every day, and the repetition has led to my learning without my having to think about it.

When a person is stressed, they use both their conscious memory and their subconscious memory to compensate for all of the stress. The switch from totally conscious learning to conscious+subconscious learning is triggered by mineralocorticoid receptors, which are released in response to stress. The switches are controlled by the amygdala, the part of the brain that’s responsible for both memory and emotional reactions. There’s a really interesting study by Schwabe, Tegenthoff, and Hoffken that talks about this. You can read it here. So, it turns out that when I said that I “operate well under stress” in college, I wasn’t actually making that up!

There’s probably a lot more to learn about subconscious learning. Please feel free to send me anything you’ve found on the subject!

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