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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. Dec 1, 1992; 89(23): 11113–11117.

Implicit knowledge: new perspectives on unconscious processes.


Recent evidence from cognitive science and neuroscience indicates that brain-damaged patients and normal subjects can exhibit nonconscious or implicit knowledge of stimuli that they fail to recollect consciously or perceive explicitly. Dissociations between implicit and explicit knowledge, which have been observed across a variety of domains, tasks, and materials, raise fundamental questions about the nature of perception, memory, and consciousness. This article provides a selective review of relevant evidence and considers such phenomena as priming and implicit memory in amnesic patients and normal subjects, perception without awareness and "blindsight" in patients with damage to visual cortex, and nonconscious recognition of familiar faces in patients with facial-recognition deficits (prosopagnosia). A variety of theoretical approaches to implicit/explicit dissociations are considered. One view is that all of the various dissociations can be attributed to disruption or disconnection of a common mechanism underlying conscious experience; an alternative possibility is that each dissociation requires a separate explanation in terms of domain-specific processes and systems. More generally, it is concluded that rather than reflecting the operation of affectively charged unconscious processes of the kind invoked by psychodynamic or Freudian theorists, dissociations between implicit and explicit knowledge are a natural consequence of the ordinary computations of the brain.

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