What Are Examples of Implicit Learning?

One prominent example of implicit learning, or the ability to understand without being able to verbally explain, is the decoding of signals in social interactions. People are sometimes able to judge the personalities of others without engaging in prolonged conversation because of their implicit understanding of regular human behaviors.

Implicit learning is crucial to the development of motor skills and language skills in children, who are not born able to explain themselves. A baby learns how to crawl, walk, speak his first words in a native language and recognize care givers without understanding any of the steps involved in these processes. One example of later implicit learning is with gifted athletes, who are sometimes able to execute a throw or particular play without being able to explain their techniques.

More common to adults is implicit memory: knowledge that is acted upon without conscious awareness. Examples of implicit memory abound. Driving, playing a musical instrument, riding a bike, speaking one’s native language and the preparation of a familiar recipe are all examples of implicit memory at work. Implicit memory enables adults to focus on complex mental processes, such as problem solving, while more routine mental processes can remain active without requiring conscious attention.