USC listening out for a new way of learning

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USC listening out for a new way of learning


Published on 4 September 2012

4 September 2012

New research at the University of the Sunshine Coast is seeking to assess whether it’s possible to learn something new without consciously hearing it.

A study entitled “The Effect of Auditory Subliminal Stimulation and Personality on Learning in Adults” will investigate whether auditory subliminal stimulation can facilitate learning in adults.

USC Psychology Honours student Phoenix Lawless, who is conducting the research, said testing of people aged over 18 would help indicate whether our brains are receptive to information that our ears are not fully tuned into.

“The threshold of hearing begins at zero decibels, with normal conversation at approximately 60 decibels. Testing will occur at between 20-22 decibels, which is considered below the range that we consciously hear,” he said.

“Research participants will be given a series of questions and tested for their answers.

“They will then be exposed to auditory subliminal stimulation through headphones. A subliminal audio file will continually repeat the answers to the questions they previously didn’t know at a level below what we consciously hear.

“They’ll then be retested to see if they have subconsciously learnt the answers to those questions.”

Mr Lawless said previous research had shown that people who were high in the “openness to experience” personality trait might be more receptive to this type of stimuli.

“We will investigate whether people with certain personality traits are more susceptible to this process, so participants will be required to complete demographics and personality questionnaires,” he said.

“From an ecological perspective, you don’t necessarily need to pay attention to something to learn it. However if you are not paying attention, it needs to be highly repetitive,” he said.

Senior Lecturer in Psychology Dr Geoff Lovell, who is overseeing the research, said subliminal learning was a fascinating topic which had recently re-emerged as a useful avenue of investigation.

“If we do find positive results, it could stimulate some very interesting methods of teaching and learning,” he said.

— Michelle Widdicombe

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