Wednesday, June 28, 2023

Study steps

 



1. Learn by “chunking”

If you’ve taken a psychology class, you may already be familiar with the idea of chunking. The theory is that people tend to remember things better when they learn related ideas in small chunks, rather than simply trying to cram all the details of a topic into their heads at once.

It’s all based on the capacity of the working memory and how our brains turn short-term memories into long-term ones. Psychologists have consistently shown that people can easily recall a string of numbers or names that is 5 to 9 objects long. That means the average person can repeat about 7 items back a few seconds after being given a list.

Students who cram may be taking in a lot of information at once, but since their working memories can’t hold all those facts, they tend to forget most of what they learn. One way to overcome knowledge loss by cramming is to chunk topics together. Research has demonstrated that subjects tend to remember more items on a list when they relate certain items on the list with others.

So if you find yourself in the (non-ideal) situation where you need to remember a large amount of information in a small amount of time, try to group facts together based on their characteristics. Or, find a pattern in the information that is meaningful to you to connect seemingly unrelated ideas.

2. Don’t fall victim to the Forgetting Curve

You’ve heard of learning curves, but have you ever heard the Forgetting Curve? Research shows that people are much more likely to be able to recall information from a one hour lecture when they review what they learned later on. And, not surprisingly, the more times one turns the information over in their mind, the longer they’ll remember it.

Like chunking, this hack is based on the functioning of the working memory. People take in an astounding amount of sensory information each day. Since not all of this information is important, the brain must decide what to hold on to and what to forget. One way the brain decides what takes priority is by paying more attention to information that it has processed multiple times.

You’re more likely to remember information from your lectures if you review what you’ve learned every day for a small amount of time everyday rather than cramming. If you don’t have time to review everything you’ve learned in a class everyday at least try to make sure you’ve looked at and actively processed a topic several times before a test.

One way to do this is to actively read the relevant material from your textbook before your lecture, take notes, and then review those notes that night before you go to sleep. Obviously, it’s helpful to look over your notes again before a test, and the more time you can find to review, the less you’ll be re-learning before your test. It can actually help save you time in the long run!


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3. Exercise before you study (and consistently!)

Exercise has both long and short-term effects on cognition. When you exercise, your body interprets the physical stress as you fighting or fleeing an enemy and activates your sympathetic nervous system. In response, your brain is flooded with extra blood, rich in oxygen and nutrients, to make what it thinks could be life-saving decisions. It’s even been demonstrated that exercise can lead to neurogenesis, or the creation of new brain cells–a process previously thought impossible.

In addition, a brain structure called the hippocampus is stimulated during exercise. Research has shown that the hippocampus is important for reasoning and memory. Besides short-term boosts in cognition, regular exercise can actually slow down age-related shrinkage of the hippocampus.



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