Saturday, April 07, 2007

Learning to Learn

Ever wonder why some people can learn like sponges, soaking up information in great gobs, while others struggle to learn? It is akin to the rich getting richer, while the poor get poorer.

Well, scientists have discovered that good learners have learned how to learn. This is especially evident for specific areas of expertise, where an existing expertise makes it easier to become even more expert. This principle was recently rediscovered (actually it was discovered at least twice before, dating back to 1932). The idea is being framed in terms of “schema,” or pre-existing knowledge that makes it easier to make associations with new information. The experiments actually focused on how having a schema speeds up the consolidation process.

So what is the take-home message for people? Just this: learn, learn, learn. The more you learn, the more schemas you are developing, making it easier to learn even more. My guess is that this principle is especially useful for learning such things as a foreign language, music, or an academic discipline. This richness really will become richer.

To learn more abut the actual experiment, go to my Web site on practical memory research.

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