Learning Course #6: Readings from week 2 #LH2L1

The optional readings for week 1 of the Learning course* I am taking were interesting. Here is a set of quotes/highlights from them:

Robin Scott, “The 30 Second Habit That Can Have a Big Impact On Your Life,” Feb 18, 2014, The Huffington Post.  This is actually a wonderful article on chunking!

  • Immediately after every lecture, meeting, or any significant experience, take 30 seconds?–?no more, no less?–?to write down the most important points. If you always do just this, said his grandfather, and even if you only do this, with no other revision, you will be okay.
  • It’s not note taking
  • It’s hard work
  • Detail is a trap
  • You must act quickly
  • You learn to listen better, and ask better questions
  • You’re able to help others more
  • It gets easier and more valuable

Richard Wiseman, “Be lucky – it’s an easy skill to learn,” The Telegraph, Jan 9, 2003.  Yes, Lady Luck DOES favor some–and for a reason!

  • Those who think they’re unlucky should change their outlook and discover how to generate good fortune
  • Although unlucky people have almost no insight into the real causes of their good and bad luck, their thoughts and behaviour are responsible for much of their fortune.
  • Take the case of chance opportunities. Lucky people consistently encounter such opportunities, whereas unlucky people do not
  • Personality tests revealed that unlucky people are generally much more tense than lucky people, and research has shown that anxiety disrupts people’s ability to notice the unexpected.
  • Unlucky people miss chance opportunities because they are too focused on looking for something else
  • Lucky people generate good fortune via four basic principles. They are skilled at creating and noticing chance opportunities, make lucky decisions by listening to their intuition, create self-fulfilling prophesies via positive expectations, and adopt a resilient attitude that transforms bad luck into good

The Overflowing Brain: Information Overload and the Limits of Working MemoryDavid Glenn,Divided Attention,” February 28, 2010, The Chronicle of Higher Education.

  • Illusion of competence is one of the things that worry scholars who study attention, cognition, and the classroom
  • “Heavy multitaskers are often extremely confident in their abilities,” says Clifford I. Nass, a professor of psychology at Stanford University. “But there’s evidence that those people are actually worse at multitasking than most people.”
  • whether attention is generated by conscious effort or is an unwilled effect of outside forces. The consensus today is that there are overlapping but neurologically distinct systems: one of controlled attention, which you use to push yourself to read another page of Faulkner, and one of stimulus-driven attention, which kicks in when someone shatters a glass behind you.
  • In a famous paper in 1956, George A. Miller suggested that humans’ working-memory capacity is limited to roughly seven units
  • Informational bottleneck has been recognized as a profound constraint on human cognition.  Two ways to manage its effects. One is to “chunk” information…The second method …is to manage attention so that unwanted stimuli do not crowd the working memory.
  • The Overflowing Brain: Information Overload and the Limits of Working Memory
  • Variability in working-memory capacity accounts for about half the variability in novel reasoning and reading comprehension.
  • People with strong working-memory capacities don’t have a larger nightclub in their brains. They just have better bouncers working the velvet rope outside
  • Information that is encoded in declarative memory is more flexible—that is, people are more likely to be able to draw analogies and extrapolate from it.

Steve Mensing, Dunning-Kruger Effect: When Distorted Self-Perception and Illusions of Competence Trick Entertainers, Politicians, and Cities,” Nov 26, 2013, Rowan Free Press.

  • The Dunning-Kruger Effect is the extreme bias that some untalented and unskilled persons suffer from when they rate their ability at a much higher level than it actually is.
  • For a given skill, incompetent people will:
    • Tend to overestimate their own level of skill.
    • Tend to recognize the extremity of their inadequacy.
    • Fail to recognize genuine skill in others.
    • Recognize and acknowledge their own previous lack of skill, if they are exposed to training for that skill.

Errol Morris, “The Anosognosic’s Dilemma: Something’s Wrong but You’ll Never Know What It Is (Part 1),” June 20, 2010, The New York Times, Opinionator.

Maria Konnikova, “What’s Lost as Handwriting Fades,” June 2, 2014, The New York Times.

  • Children not only learn to read more quickly when they first learn to write by hand, but they also remain better able to generate ideas and retain information. In other words, it’s not just what we write that matters – but how.
  • The messiness inherent in free-form handwriting: Not only must we first plan and execute the action in a way that is not required when we have a traceable outline, but we are also likely to produce a result that is highly variable. That variability may itself be a learning tool.
  • Cursive writing may train self-control ability in a way that other modes of writing do not, and some researchers argue that it may even be a path to treating dyslexia

Carl Zimmer, “This is Your Brain on Writing,” June 20, 2014, The New York Times.

  • The researchers, led by Martin Lotze of the University of Greifswald in Germany, observed a broad network of regions in the brain working together as people produced their stories. But there were notable differences between the two groups of subjects. The inner workings of the professionally trained writers in the bunch, the scientists argue, showed some similarities to people who are skilled at other complex actions, like music or sports.
  • When we first start learning a skill — be it playing a piano or playing basketball — we use a lot of conscious effort. With practice, those actions become more automatic. The caudate nucleus and nearby regions start to coordinate the brain’s activity as this shift happens.
  • The very nature of creativity can make it different from one person to the next, and so it can be hard to see what different writers have in common. Dr. Pinker speculated that Marcel Proust might have activated the taste-perceiving regions of his brain when he recalled the flavor of a cookie. But another writer might rely more on sounds to evoke a time and place.

Johns Hopkins Medicine, “Memories of errors foster faster learning,” August 14, 2014, Science Daily.  Yes, mistakes really do help you learn!

  • Using a deceptively simple set of experiments, researchers have learned why people learn an identical or similar task faster the second, third and subsequent time around. The reason: They are aided not only by memories of how to perform the task, but also by memories of the errors made the first time.

* This blog entry is part of my series on the “Learning How to Learn: Powerful mental tools to help you master tough subjects” course I am taking.

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