Learning How To Learn

>> Monday, September 20, 2010

We have a new junior planner here at SSW, and one of the perks of having young minds around is that their enthusiasm propels them to discover things we more mature folks might not.

Last week, one of the things he discovered was this article in the New York Times on what recent research has taught us about how people learn – one of our favorite topics here at Saatchi & Saatchi Wellness.

Wellness is quite often difficult. For most of us – and our audiences – it includes making some fairly ambitious long-term changes to their behavior. A lot goes into behavior change, but one key ingredient is learning and mastering new information.

Thus I was fascinated by some of the “learning myths” the Times article debunked. Here is my quick-and-dirty synopsis of their three rules for better learning:

1. Say good bye to your favorite study spot
. Researchers have discovered that people retain new information better if they vary up the places where they consume this info. They theorize that we store new information by its relation to other data in our brains. When you are learning, your brain is also consuming the sensory data from the environment around you. So, if you change up where you are learning, your brain has more info associated with what you learn, and thus you retain it better.

2. One thing at a time – not so much.
Related information gets remembered better than like information. Researchers have demonstrated that students who studied mixed sets of four types of equations retained the whole lesson much better than other students who studied one type of equation at a time.

3. Testing is good!
In another experiment, researchers showed that being immediately tested on material you just learned helps you retain that information long term. The effort your brain exerts for the test helps cement the new information into your neurons.

Learning is equal parts important and difficult. It’s comforting that – through the magic of science and research – we can still get better at it.

Hope this finds you well.

Jacob Braude

VP, Planner


RyanDrumwright September 27, 2010 at 12:13 AM  

Thanks for the mention, Jacob!

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