Implicit and explicit learning is an area of research area relevant to two debates in cognitive psychology.
The first debate is over whether information is stored in memory in an abstract form or a specific form. The debate between theories that postulate abstract knowledge vs. those postulating specific knowledge (also known as exemplar or instance based theories) occurs in the areas of concept representation, syllogistic reasoning, as well as implicit and explicit learning.
The second debate is over whether all knowledge results from conscious processes, or whether some knowledge is acquired by unconscious processes. If the latter is the case, then how do the unconscious processes operate?
Implicit learning has been characterized as a passive process, where people are exposed to information, and acquire knowledge of that information simply through that exposure. Explicit learning, on the other hand, is characterized as an active process where people seek out the structure of any information that is presented to them. Some psychologists suggest that much of the information learned during the normal course of life is learned implicitly, not explicitly. They cite activities such as language learning, bicycle riding, and other complex activities, as examples of implicit learning. These are activities that people can do, but that they cannot explain how they do.