Unlearning LO24214

From: Richard Karash (Richard@karash.com)
Date: 03/20/00

Replying to LO24201 --

The "unlearning" idea has never seemed right to me. Now, I think I see the
crux of the problem.

If "learning" is having a certain belief or coming into the habit of a
certain behavior, then I agree that we may have to "unlearn" in order to
make progress.

But, I use "knowledge" as the capacity for effective action and "learning"
as increasing knowledge, that is, increasing capacity.

So, in my use of the terms, we build on old learning, and don't unlearn.
We might forget or fall out of practice (a reduction of capacity), but we
would not willingly "unlearn."

Morty, in your examples below, I would not call it "learning" when the
child came to believe "I'm not good enough" or when the technician came to
view their job as only technical. Those are beliefs, but it wasn't

And, I would turn your examples around... The technician has learned to
fix, maintain, and install. Those are capacities. Now the technician can
learn further to deal with customers, increasing his or her capacity for
effective action.

I don't think this is just semantics. If learning is an increase in
capacity, why would one ever want to unlearn?

   -=- Rick

>Thanks for your reply. I'm not stuck with the word "unlearning," but it is
>an accurate term. My experience does not agree with your statement: .
>> The "old" learning still exists, but
>> now with a different set of relationships to other knowledge. It is still
>> known, but now as a 'simpler' or less 'valuable' concept and may be used
>> by the learner as a heuristic towards the 'newer' more 'valuable'
>> knowledge.
>My experience is that it is possible to totally eliminate the "old"
>learning. For example, a person may have learned as a child that "I'm not
>good enough" as a result of his parents always being critical. We have
>worked with over 1,000 private clients who have totally "unlearned" that
>and other similar "facts" and who now believe (not just cognitively or as
>an affirmation, but experientially) that "I am good enough." The
>unlearning and new learning have lasted for many years without
>We have worked with thousands of service technicians who had learned that
>their job was a technical one: to fix, maintain, and install. Given this
>belief (this learning), talking to customers was an imposition, something
>that got in the way of them doing their "real" job. Using several
>processes we have developed to eliminate beliefs, these workers unlearned
>what they knew to be a fact about their jobs.


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