Andy’s Quick Hits (224): Simple Exposure to New Things Makes Your Brain Ready to Learn

Andy Hab
2 min readJun 2, 2022

Wouldn’t it be great if we could learn things with no effort?

Well, actually we often do, and children learn vast quantities of information, and knowledge with little to no effort — think of how well we learn languages which become fiendishly difficult to learn as adults.

This is something that researchers at Ohio State University wanted to explore further. Just how much does simple exposure trigger learning.

What did they find?

Well, the good news, is they found that simple exposure seems to prime the brain for learning. In a series of experiments they conducted they saw that when exposed to different creatures, without any need to learn anything, the participants could learn the categories of these creatures much quicker when given an explicit learning task. Much quicker than if they had had no exposure.

This may sound a bit obvious, but it Is not. It shows that simple exposure triggers mild learning response and primes the brain to be ready for learning. Additional experiments showed that the exposure itself had not triggered learning because of failure to categorise these creatures at an earlier stage. It was only when active learning was stimulated that those who had had previous exposure performed much better.

All in that’s great news — simple exposure helps with learning and something we can certainly use as parents, teachers, and in business.

Layla Unger, Vladimir M. Sloutsky.
Ready to Learn: Incidental Exposure Fosters Category Learning.
Psychological Science, 2022; 095679762110614
DOI: 10.1177/09567976211061470

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Andy is author of leading brains Review an online e-magazine on all things the brain, behaviour, and business.

Andy Hab

Sharing fascinating, fun, and important knowledge on the brain and human behaviour - most days. And masters track athlete - still going strong!