Jan 222008

The way most people think learning happens is wrong. Learning doesn’t happen sequentially. Learning happens best when you relate what you already know to what you want to learn. Its a mark of creativity to find interesting relationships, too. Examples:

  • My Personality and Its Transformations prof used this video of a laughing baby (amusing video, too, watch it) to illustrate like five things about humanity.
  • In my Philosophy tutorial today, we were discussing Locke and his treatise on private property. In his formulation of the “State of nature” of human beings, he suggested that you can have whatever you mix your labour with. A student piped up saying that that’s what pimps and hos do. Pimps mix their labour with the hoes and then they own them.
  • I also compared Locke’s state of nature of cowboys. There isn’t an overarching social order, but everyone does follow a code and administers their own brand of justice, but most people just leave each other well enough alone unless something bad happens.

So, laughing babies teaching us about the neurophysiology of joy (and the dopaminic track), Locke teaching us about cowboys and pimps. If that’s not memorable associations, I dunno what is.

Main Points:

  • Learn by associating what you know to what you want to learn. Look for similarities and patterns.
  • More striking associations that have some element of emotion (including humour) are more likely to be remembered. Our memories work a lot by emotional content and vividness (and incongruent things are vivid, imagine using an elephant for a chair, for example).

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