Dissertation Defense: Adam Weinberger
Candidate Name: Adam Weinberger
Thesis Advisor: Adam E. Green, Ph.D.
Title: The Dynamics of Implicit and Explicit Knowledge Acquisition: An Examination of Bases of Human Learning
Human learning relies on interrelated implicit and explicit systems. Extensive evidence indicates that implicitly learned information can become consciously-accessible (i.e., explicit). According to a number of theoretical accounts of human learning, this occurs by way of intuitions, which emerge from implicit learning experiences and, in turn, constrain the formation of subsequent explicit knowledge and beliefs. Similarly, information explicitly acquired can eventually be stored implicitly, allowing for greater automaticity. Across three studies, this dissertation investigates the interrelated operations of implicit and explicit systems. Study 1 examined the relationship between implicit learning of patterns/order within visuospatial sequences and belief in an intervening/ordering god. Results revealed that individuals who displayed stronger implicit pattern learning reported (i) stronger belief in an intervening/ordering god, and (ii) increased strength-of-belief from childhood to adulthood. Intuitions of universal order mediated these effects. In Study 2, the theorized relationship between implicit learning, intuitions, and explicit knowledge was more directly tested. Findings indicated that intuitions developed from implicit learning experiences prior to explicit knowledge. Further, the accuracy of explicit reports was significantly associated with intuition timing and accuracy. Superior implicit learning, however, was not correlated with intuition accuracy. Study 3 focused on putative neural mechanisms that facilitate learning. Key questions concerned whether functional modularity was associated with academic achievement. Additional analyses examined changes in implicit and explicit task-based connectivity following an extended period of classroom education. Results indicated that whole-brain modularity was significantly related to GPA, but no effect of learning on implicit and explicit task-based connectivity was observed. Implications and open questions pursuant to these findings are discussed.