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Consistency has been a hallmark of good study habits since the 1900s.
It's drilled into our heads from an early age.
Have a dedicated desk. Have a dedicated time. Eliminate distractions.
But what if almost everything we're told about how we learn is wrong?
What if being inconsistent can work in our favor?
For instance, could something as simple as a change in venue make a difference?
Could interrupting work on a large project facilitate more inventive thinking?
In the mid 1970's, a trio of psychologists performed an experiment to answer just that.
They wondered what would happen if people study the same material twice only in two different places.
To test this, they presented a group of students with a list of 40 four letter words, like ball and fork.
All of the students were given two ten-minute study sessions.
But half of them studied in the same dimly lighted, cluttered room for both sessions, while the other half studied in two different rooms: the cluttered one, and a neater, brighter one across campus.
In the last phase of the experiment, researchers had the students write down as many of the study words as they could in 10 minutes.
The difference in scores was striking.
The one-room group recalled an average of 16 of the 40 studied words.
The two-rooms group recalled 24.
A simple change in venue had improved the students' memory by 40%.
But it isn't just where you study or practice.
How you do so is also part of the environment.
Think about it.
Writing notes by hand is one kind of activity.
Typing them is another.
The same goes for studying while standing up versus sitting down, verses running on a treadmill.
In the end, it doesn't matter which aspects of the environment you vary, so long as you vary what you can.
Despite what traditional advice tells us, when it comes to learning, it's consistency, not change, that is limiting.
So next time you need to study, to practice, or prepare for that big project, mix it up.
Try another room, another time of day.
Take your guitar to the park.
Change coffee shops.
Switch practice courts.
Read in silence and with music on.
Why? Because each alteration of your routine, further enriches the skills being rehearsed.
Making them more accessible to you for a longer period of time.
That's the soul of real learning after all: To carry the skills and the knowledge with you—available when needed, no matter the environment.
"How We Learn by Benedict Carey."
On sale September 9th.
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How to study smarter, not harder - From How We Learn by Benedict Carey

115466 Folder Collection
Colleen Jao published on January 15, 2019    Colleen Jao translated    Tim reviewed
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