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Common steps and sub-activities

Learning - extraction


Our 5 senses and our nervous system along with the functions of the Mind provide us with Perceptions.

When we learn it is this Perceptions 'log' that is used in order to form Memory and the first step in the process is the extraction of Perceptions. In effect, not every Perception is used to Learn.

Or to put this another way, not all perceptions from the Perceptions log are extracted. Thus, right from the word go, we are to a certain extent limiting what is in our Memory by what is extracted. The selection and extraction, both conscious and subconscious, may be based on a number of things: 

  • Our Personality - who we are determines what we decide we want to learn. This can be proved when we look at the case histories of people with Multiple personality disorder. Each personality learns different things 

  • Our Objectives in life– what do we want to do in life. We are only likely to learn what we need to know at the time, what seems most important. Thus our 'desires' play an enormously important part in the process. 

  • Obligations – what we need to know about because we have obligations in society or our family. Thus we will learn about the tax system because we have an obligation to pay tax 

  • Threats – any immediate threats to our happiness or even existence. So to give a rather grim example, we might learn about our prison guard and what he is like in a prison in order that we can survive. On a less grim note, if we go to a campsite for the night we will attempt to learn where the water is so we can have a drink and the toilets so we can have a wee 

  • Opportunities – anything that presents itself as being worth pursuing because it may give us more happiness and help us to achieve our objectives. In other words we may decide to learn about something because by doing so we are better able to exploit the opportunity 

  • The Emotions that accompanied those Perceptions – we tend to build memories of things far more if they are accompanied by stronger emotions. And this is entirely subconscious – there is no control over whether this happens or not, Emotions have an enormous effect on what is in Memory see Memory and Emotion  

There is also another factor governing extraction as we get older and that is what psychologists call ‘core experiences’.

Core experiences

Core experiences are our first experiences. The first memories of children – both the database of facts and models of the systems are built from core experiences and are the foundation upon which the rest of learning takes place.

Learning is by its nature very like building a house, once the foundations are laid then the walls are built on the foundations and the structure is gradually added to and built upon as time goes on. Sections of the house may be pulled down if you find you don’t need them anymore or they are wrong and need replacing, but to take away the foundations is truly drastic. A child’s early memories are thus key to how it views life – how the rest of the build up of memory proceeds

It is thus quite correct of psychoanalysts to state that the earlier you ‘get’ a child, the more influence you can have on the little soul’s development. This quite clearly has quite sinister implications of which practically every dictator, tyrant, religion, political party and advertising executive is well aware. It is no accident that Hitler formed his ‘Youth movement’.

It also means that a child who experiences early trauma may develop a core system that affects his or her entire life.  The same incidentally is true of animals.  Take a 'rescue puppy' and even if you love it to distraction, if it has had maltreatment as a puppy it will never forget.

In effect, the extraction that takes place is also governed by the degree to which classes and concepts have been created already. It is easier to fit a perception into an existing schema than it is to recognise the need for a new set of classes and a big extension or reworking of the schema.


There seems to be a sequence in which learning takes place over time from childhood through to adult that also governs what we select  - extract - as Perceptions.

Once a symbol based model has been built, I think that children build up a model of classes and relationships next – hence the endless question –‘what is that’. For this they need language. They then start to populate the model with actual data, building on the classes and relationships model as they go.

The functions they need to learn to survive come next. Only later as adolescents, for example, do the more abstract systems start to get learnt - the social systems we have, religious systems perhaps, banking systems, political systems and so on.

Problems with extraction

Very often, at this stage the problems are due less to the extraction process which if truly geared towards what we want and have to do, is generally pretty reliable.

The exception of course is when we have built a castle based on sand and are only collecting Perceptions to prop up an unstable and unsustainable model.

The problem actually comes in the quality of the perceptions we are working on.

Simply put, we can be fairly useless at observation, missing essential information because our senses are perhaps not that good, or because we don't use them properly. The world passes us by and 90% goes unnoticed.

The recording of the occurrences themselves is dependent on the 5 senses. If our senses are deficient in any way, therefore, we automatically have a problem, as the information we are obtaining is deficient. But people can simply not be very observant, they don’t use their senses and perception.

I have added a section on Improving Perceptions which covers this problem. 


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