Can we learn complex information without consciousness? Implicit learning — the process through which learning proceeds without awareness of what has been learned — has been the focus of intense investigation over the last fifty years. Yet, as of today, whether complex knowledge can be learned implicitly remains controversial. Here, we address this challenge by asking participants to learn about sequences they fail to perceive consciously. Using an instrumental conditioning task, we show that participants learn to associate distinct sequences of crowded (non-discriminable) symbols with their respective monetary outcomes (reward vs. punishment). Overall, our study demonstrates that sensitivity to sequential regularities can arise through the nonconscious temporal integration of perceptual information.
- subliminal perception
- decision making