Unconsciously learning to avoid learning

The four books from cognitive neuroscience I read this year opened my eyes to how much we learn unconsciously. New techniques for studying unconscious processes have revealed a very high percentage (85-90%) of our behavior to be outside our conscious awareness. This explained for me the equally high percentage of "zero and negative skill transfer" in most adult learning events.

Imagine how our minds are learning when we are retaining nothing from an educational experience.
  • We learn to look like we're paying attention even when we're not.
  • We learn to give blank stare when the instructor is asking for participation.
  • We learn to rely on grades or other extrinsic rewards to "motivate" our compliance with the requirements.
  • We learn how to be nice to the instructor to avoid getting stereotyped or singled out for abuse
  • We learn to keep our assimilation of indoctrination to a minimum to avoid being scorned by peers for "believing that B.S".
  • We learn to close our minds when we are being told to think differently than we already are, so as to maintain our composure
  • We learn to forget what we memorized for a test to avoid cluttering our mind with useless information
  • We learn how to complain (about the course, instructor, schedule, workload, etc. ) when it works to get sympathy
  • We learn to express appreciation (how it could be worse, provides a welcome break, etc) when it works to get admired

Once we've learn this and "field tested" these routines, we execute them without thinking. We are "hard-wired" to handle instructional settings without thinking about what is being taught, what we could get out of it or how we are reacting routinely. We can show up, play the game and get the work done without learning a thing more than we internalized unconsciously.

Clinicians may diagnose us as having a "learning disability". Others may defend our adaptation to a toxic situation by labeling our condition: a "learned disability" . It's actually not a disability at all. Our conduct is a success we learned in practice. It's getting done what almost always works in these situations. We've made our mind up and will not change until it's clear that our routines are failing to avoid what we were steering clear of or are getting us into trouble. Then we will unconsciously learn to behave differently.

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