A useful model of how we learn, usually illustrated by how we learnt to drive. It applies to any other skill in which there is a strong behavioural component which is also restricted in the choices of behaviour possible. So, it applies to pretty much all manual labour, all sports (think of playing a rally in tennis), many artistic endeavours (playing an instrument, acting a play), much else—and to our communication with other people.
When we are small, we are aware of being carried in a car, but we don’t have any real idea of how the car moves forward, or the driver’s role in that process. Not only are we unaware of (unconscious of) the techniques—the competences—we would need in order to drive, we are unaware that specific competences are needed at all.
Getting older, we become aware that there is a set of behaviours the person driving the car needs to be able to do, but we do not know what they are. We are conscious of our lack of ability or competence.
We start to learn to drive. Now we are competent (somewhat), but we have to think at every junction, at every circumstance, what we are going to do next. One of my instructors had me giving a running commentary on want was going on and how and why I was responding to it. He was literally ensuring that the competence stayed conscious.
With practice, we carry out some tasks, such as changing gear at the right moment, without thinking (ie, unconsciously). With lots of practice and repetition of the same journeys, we find we have undertaken whole chunks of a journey without being aware of having done so. (This is fine: the unconscious is, in many ways, a more reliable part of our mind to have in control than our conscious mind, prone as it is to distraction.)
by Jeremy Marchant . © 2015 Jeremy Marchant Limited . uploaded 28 june 2015 . image: Free images
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