03 - Using the Focused and Diffuse Modes

دوره: Coursera – Learning How to Learn / درس 3

Coursera – Learning How to Learn

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03 - Using the Focused and Diffuse Modes

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So, let’s take a look

at some famous people from history who used

their different thinking modes to help them with their problem solving.

If you look at that guy right there,

he was Salvador Dalí,

a very well known Surrealist painter of the 20th century.

He was the very definition of a wild and crazy guy.

You could see him here with his pet ocelot Babou.

Dalí used to have an interesting technique to help him come up with

his fantastically creative Surrealist paintings.

He’d relax in a chair and let his mind go free,

often still vaguely thinking about what he had previously been focusing on.

He’d have a key in his hand,

dangling it just above the floor,

and as he would slip into his dreams falling asleep,

the key would fall from his hands and the clatter would wake him up,

just in time so he could gather up those diffuse mode connections and ideas in his mind,

and off he’d go back into the focus mode bringing with

him the new connections he’d made while in the diffuse mode.

Now, you might think, well,

you know that’s okay for an artist.

But what does it have to do with more scientific or mathematical kinds of thinking?

Well, if you look down here,

this guy was Thomas Edison,

one of the most brilliant inventors ever.

According to legend, what Edison used to do was he’d sit and relax in his chair,

holding ball bearings in his hand.

He’d relax away letting his mind run free.

Although, it would often noodle back in

a much more relaxed way to what he’d been focusing on previously.

When Edison would fall asleep,

the ball bearings would drop and clatter to the ground just as with Dalí,

and it would wake Edison up,

and off he’d go with his ideas from

the diffuse mode ready to take them into the focus mode and build on them.

So, the bottom line is,

when you’re learning something new,

especially something that’s a little more difficult,

your mind needs to be able to go back and forth between the two different learning modes.

That’s what helps you learn effectively.

You might think of it as a bit analogous to building your strength by lifting weights.

You would never plan to compete in a weightlifting competition by waiting until

the very day before a meet and then spending the entire day working out like a fiend.

I mean, it just doesn’t happen that way.

To gain muscular structure,

you need to do a little work every day,

gradually allowing your muscles to grow.

Similarly, to build neural structure,

you need to do a little work every day,

gradually allowing yourself to grow a neuro-scaffold

to hang your thinking on a little bit,

every day, and that’s the trick.

In summary then, we learned that analogies provide powerful techniques for learning.

We learned about how the brain’s two different thinking modes focused and diffuse,

each helps us learn but in very different ways.

Finally, we learned that learning something difficult can take time.

Your brain needs to alternate it’s ways of learning as

it grapples with and assimilates the new material.

Thanks for learning about learning.

I’m Barbara Oakley.

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