Content-type: text/html ~ Stephen's Web ~ Pattern Recognition As Skill

Stephen Downes

Knowledge, Learning, Community

Feb 10, 2007

Responding to John Martin: "However I am not sure that it (pattern recognition) is an innate feature as opposed to a learned skill."

It is both.

Human neurons naturally form connections. That is, in fact, their sole function. Any time they are presented with input (such as experience) they will react by strengthening or weakening connections. Because these connections are sensitive to input, they will reflect patterns in that input. This is not a conscious act; it is not the same as saying we are looking for patterns. It's more like the way you distinguish between red and blue. You just do it.

After a certain period of time, this process results in a base of pre-existing patterns of connectivity in the mind. The child, for example, has learned to identify objects. Slightly older children, for example, have learned to recognize faces. These pre-existing patterns now influence the recognition of patterns in perception.

There comes a point where the recognition of patterns in the environment will depend entirely on the influence of these pre-existing patterns. The distinction between subtle shades of red, for example, that the artist can make. The ability to identify a type of wine. The capacity to apply mathematical forumulas to equations. In such cases, it would be correct to say that pattern recognition is entirely a learned ability.

Stephen Downes Stephen Downes, Casselman, Canada

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