The idea of learning while asleep is of considerable interest to scientists in their exploration of thinking processes. It is also attractive to practical-minded people who see it as an opportunity to utilize this “wasted” one third of life.Early studies by Leuba and Bateman(1952) appeared to yield positive results, but more recent investigations have been clearly negative. In one of these experiments, EEG electrodes were attached to the heads of the subjects, and when the brain wave impulses indicated that they were deeply asleep, a tape recorder played a list of ten nouns repeatedly. In the morning the subjects were asked to select these nouns from a list of fifty. The same list was shown to a control group who were told that they were participating in an extrasensory perception experiment; they were asked to identify ten nouns which the experimenter had chosen. There was no significant difference in the scores of the two groups (Emmons and Simon, 1956)Two other studies, by Hoyt (1953) and Stamp,1953),have also yielded negative results.The discrepancy between these findings and Leuba’s original results is believed to be due to the fact that the earlier subjects were only half asleep when the material was read to them. There is good evidence that some material can be acquired during this stage between sleeping and waking. The question is whether a significant amount can be retained. As Munn (1966) points out, “It is perhaps worth noting that the positive results of earlier studies— perhaps of learning while in a state of drowsiness—were for the learning of relatively simple material. There is no doubt, moreover, that a comparable group of wide-awake subjects would exceed the performance of any group attempting to learn while asleep, or while in a state of drowsiness.” See HYPNAGOGIC STATE.

Cite this page: N., Sam M.S., "LEARNING DURING SLEEP," in PsychologyDictionary.org, November 28, 2018, https://psychologydictionary.org/learning-during-sleep/ (accessed September 29, 2022).


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