Recalling that behavior is any action that can be observed, learning may be defined as a relatively permanent change in behavior that occurs as the result of practice.
Practice means the inculcation of habit formations or conditioning. When we talk of conditioning, we are referring to stimulus-response, or conditioned response, classical conditioning, operant conditioning and multiple-response learning.
An associative response is a stimulus-response relationship leading to learning habit formations. Associative learning means acquiring a connection between stimulus and response that did not exist before. From this basic premise, we can see how verbal habits are acquired and lead eventually to a vocabulary. Learning, then, is conditioned habit formations.
All learning implies retention, recall, memory and/or retaining what has been learned. Recollection is a singular manner of remembering. Association is another, as is recognition and re-learning.
When we recollect we remember information already learned and deposited in memory. When we associate a person or experience with similar or duplicate the associative factors erupt memory. Recognition of a piece of music or event as “familiar” leads to relearning something you may have believed forgotten. Each kind of memory makes a somewhat different demand upon the subject. Obviously, memory is essential to learning. in hypnosis, we find it highly advantageous to use positive mental imagery as an aid to remembering as well as behavioral improvement.
“Memories are patterns of items, woven together by rules that impose varying degrees of organization. This is important for the student to remember, for studies have shown that when words or other stimuli are studied the greater degree of organization that the learner can impose on the material, the better the subsequent recall.” (Mandler, 1969.)
With the expert use of hypnosis, we know that learning and memory can be enhanced and a more positive, assertive and confident attitude induced in a client. The mechanics of learning, however, are basic to habit change and some knowledge of this little-understood facet of the brain is helpful to the practicing hypnotist.
We know, for example, that one who continually decries he has a “lousy memory” will most certainly have one. We know that as long as that person sells himself on the concept that he possesses a poor memory, no effort to change will be forthcoming. This is where the hypnotist, with the valuable support of positive imagery and repetitive auto-suggestion, can aid a client to replace both concept and realization with an improved and genuinely productive habit formation.
It should always be stipulated by the hypnotist that for something to be long retained it must be “over-learned,” or beyond the experience of simple recall. There are short term and long term memory. In short term, such as looking up a phone number and remembering enough to dial, but then promptly forgetting that number, no time or repetition is necessary.
This is called “trace-dependent forgetting.” In long-term memory there is a rehearsal buffer (over-learning), also called “cue-dependent forgetting,” and this prevents the decay of the short term and with repetition will then be available for recall. Studies show that there is a consolidation time evolved between the introduction of new material and the acceptance by the subconscious memory banks if the material is to be retained.
The use of mental imagery, is an organization of material, self-recitation during study and over-learning beyond bare mastery aid storage and retrieval processes; so we can see how habits, memory procedures, and conditioning create and sustain learning.