Arthur S. Reber, cognitive psychologist, professor of psychology, and prolific author discusses implicit learning and consciousness on the cellular level.
Reber is a Fulbright Fellow and a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) as well as the Association for Psychological Science (APS). Reber earned his BA in psychology from the University of Pennsylvania and an MA and Ph.D. from Brown University.
Reber discusses the origin of his fascination with implicit learning. He recounts an interesting story in which he observed a caterpillar in his garden that seemed to be so obviously making conscious choices—which leaf to chew on, should I check for predators, etc. This experience intrigued him and he pushed his research further. As he began to research and write about the topic of conscious cells, he found there seemed to be, initially, no interest in the scientific community for his research. But as time passed, he dug deeper relating his research to all his knowledge in cognitive function, and the scientific community took note.
Reber is celebrated for his work in the nexus between biology and psychology and he is widely known in the scientific community for introducing the concept of implicit learning, and for utilizing the elementary principles of biology to demonstrate how implicit or unconscious cognitive functions contrast with those that are conducted consciously.
The Ph.D. discusses prokaryotes and their functioning. A prokaryote, simply defined, is a unicellular organism lacking a supporting membrane-bound nucleus and mitochondria, as well as any other membrane-bound organelle. He talks about prokaryotes, the simplest living organisms, and their astonishing skills in learning. He relates some information on various experiments that provided insight into cells and how they function while defending themselves from viruses and toxins. He discusses daughter cells and the metabolic adjustments that are made and how it all impacts a cellular colony.
Reber provides further information on bacteria and how they are sensitive. He talks about the effects of anesthetics on bacteria’ behaviors, and the remarkable skills they have to minimize their suffering. He relates this information to plants and discusses how plants have experiences that cause them to produce anesthetics. While we tend to not think of plants as being sentient, able to feel or perceive, Reber states that they probably are. As he explains, plant roots are sensitive to nutrient contents and will shift depending upon the circumstance within the soil. And as he states, this brings up an interesting point in regard to ethics, specifically for vegans, for if plants are sentient, they feel and have consciousness.