Here are eight ways to increase your learning speed and aid in the processing of new information and skills.
1. Have fun with video games!
Yes, you read that correctly. For parents and teachers alike, video games have long been blamed for poor adolescent academic performance.
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However, as a recent study from the University of Rochester demonstrates, learners proficient in action-packed games like Call of Duty perform new cognitive tasks significantly faster than their untrained counterparts.
In general, the study suggests that they learn new things more quickly.
So go ahead and fire up your Xbox and tell your parents you're working hard to get into Harvard.
2. Tell your grandmother about it
Einstein is said to have said, “If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough.”
A corollary to this is that teaching something to someone forces you to refine your thinking, which leads to a better understanding of it.
One method for accomplishing this without annoying your roommate any further is to employ the Feynman Technique, developed by accelerated learning expert Scott Young (after famed theoretical physicist and bongo enthusiast Richard Feynman).
Go over difficult concepts that you want to better understand and pretend you're explaining them to someone else. Repeat this process by refining your explanations and simplifying your language. This will greatly improve your ability to apply that concept on a test or when solving a problem.
3. Practice your bilingualism
Recently, researchers from the National University of Singapore's Psychology Department conducted studies that suggest bilingual children may have an advantage when it comes to understanding new things and processing information. The good news is that there are no specific languages that result in the smartest children. What really matters, according to the researchers, is the process of understanding and distinguishing between two different sets of vocabulary.
So, if you don't already know a different language, now is the time to start, because you're essentially training yourself to process more information from different perspectives – an important aspect of learning new information faster.
4. Study before going to bed
As demonstrated by a 2012 study from the University of Notre Dame, learning new material and forming new neural connections right before sleeping provides a significant retention advantage over learning during the day.
There is some evidence that numerous brain repair and consolidation functions are performed during deep sleep and REM sleep, which may explain why this works.
In any case, learning something new and immediately following it with sleep is a surefire way to get more bang for your buck when it comes to study time.
5. Prepare your mind ahead of time
“Thinking is connecting things and stopping when they can't be connected.” Gilbert Keith Chesterton's formal name is Gilbert Keith Chesterton.
When learning something new, you want to make as many connections as possible, and according to Adam Robinson, co-founder of the Princeton Review and author of What Smart Students Know, the best way to do that is to relate new information to what you already know. This proves to be the most effective method of fostering genuine understanding.
One of the best ways to prepare for this is to do a brain dump beforehand. Before learning something new, spend five minutes writing down everything that comes to mind about that subject. This will bring anything you already know to the forefront of your mind and bring potential relationships to the forefront of your mind before embarking on a new set of concepts.
6. Make it visually appealing
Visual information is processed by the brain orders of magnitude faster than text. In addition, incorporating relevant visuals into learning materials improves retention during testing.
As a result, whenever you can create symbols, charts, and diagrams to go along with text notes, you will improve your ability to learn new information faster.
7. Learn without thinking about it
One method for quickly learning a new set of information (particularly new motor skills or visual associations) is to not focus your attention on learning at all.
Perceptual learning, as defined by psychologist Eleanor Gibson, is the idea that we learn unconsciously through our perceptions (sight, hearing, touch, etc.) in a self-regulated manner that does not require external reinforcement.
Simply put, by directly experiencing different situations or images in a fast-paced manner, you can learn to intuitively identify them.
Following a perceptual learning training protocol through a computer program that allows you to associate different dial readouts with different situations, for example, gave aspiring pilots the same level of reading skill as expert pilots with an average of 1,000 flying hours in 1 hour.
Change between focused and diffuse modes.
We have two modes of thinking, according to Professor Barbara Oakley in her latest best-selling book, A Mind for Numbers: focused (highly intensive mental processes when you are acutely aware of what you are thinking) and diffuse (a more relaxed mental process associated with sub-conscious thinking). Understanding how to use and switch between these two modes is critical for more effective learning.
How many times have you struggled with a difficult problem, only to give up, go for a walk, or take a shower, and the solution suddenly comes to you?
This is due to a phenomenon known as the Einstellung effect, which occurs when the first idea that comes to mind prevents you from seeing a wider range of possible solutions.
If you become overly focused on a new type of math problem, you may never be able to solve it in a single session because you cannot see the forest for the trees.
Instead, the best approach is to alternate short bursts of intense focus on new information with periods of relaxed diffuse thinking, and then repeat the cycle.
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