A Conflict with the Theory of Automatic Learning


English: QWERTY keyboard layout - homes keys -...
‘For more than a century, scientists have recognized the existence of automatism: the ability to perform actions without conscious thought or intention. Automatic behaviors of this type are surprisingly common, ranging from tying shoelaces to making coffee to factory assembly-line work to riding a bicycle and driving a car. So scientists had assumed that typing also fell into this category, but had not tested it.

‘What did come as a surprise, however, was a finding that conflicts with the basic theory of automatic learning, which suggests that it starts out as a conscious process and gradually becomes unconscious with repetition. According to the widely held theory – primarily developed by studying how people learn to play chess – when you perform a new task for the first time, you are conscious of each action and store the details in working memory. Then, as you repeat the task, it becomes increasingly automatic and your awareness of the details gradually fades away. This allows you to think about other things while you are performing the task.

Automatism Illustrated
When you are typing away at your computer, you don’t know what your fingers are really doing

‘That is the conclusion of a study conducted by a team of cognitive psychologists at Vanderbilt and Kobe universities. It found that skilled typists can’t identify the positions of many of the keys on the QWERTY keyboard and that novice typists don’t appear to learn key locations in the first place.

“’This demonstrates that we’re capable of doing extremely complicated things without knowing explicitly what we are doing,” said Vanderbilt University graduate student Kristy Snyder, the first author of the study…’
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About DigitalPlato

Poch is a Bookrix author and a freelance writer. He is a frequent contributor to TED Conversations.
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