Unlearning LO14762

Brock Vodden (brock.vodden@odyssey.on.ca)
Tue, 26 Aug 1997 22:38:19 -0400

Replying to LO14750 --

Regarding unlearning, James Carrington wrote on Tuesday August 26, 1997,
in part:

>I cannot see the value of intentionally forgetting
>something I have learned, if not for remembering what not to do.


One of the common situations in which unlearning is a necessary process is
one involving changing from an entrenched psycho-motor operation to a
slightly different action which is designed to improve performance.

I came across an example some years ago in which the industrial
engineering staff of a manufacturing plant had made changes in the set up
of machines in order to reduce the amount of movement the operators needed
to make. The IE people discovered that after the changes were made, the
operators who had been the best performers became the poorest performers.
They had concluded that these individuals were deliberately sabotaging
their improvement measures. When asked to assess the situation, I
suggested that the cause was that these high performers were having
difficulty to unlearn their old routines. In observing these people, we
noted that they frequently made false moves to the the lever or switch
which was no longer there.

In this case, there was no value in retaining the old learned routines.
The easiest solution for them was them to move to competely different
machines, which would require no unlearning - just learning of the new
operation. Unfortunately this was not possible because of the rigid job
classification system which was ties to the machines on which people

A further example comes from research I read many years ago, although I
cannot recall the source. This research determined that an accomplished
typist on the QWERTY keyboard is unlikely to ever achieve the same typing
speed on a new keyboard layout.

I do not know of any examples of unlearning problems in higher level
intellectual skills.

Brock Vodden


"Brock Vodden" <brock.vodden@odyssey.on.ca>

Learning-org -- An Internet Dialog on Learning Organizations For info: <rkarash@karash.com> -or- <http://world.std.com/~lo/>