1-8 Learning Something Hard? The Coffee Shop Trick

دوره: Mindshift- Break Through Obstacles to Learning and Discover Your Hidden Potential / فصل: Change IS possible / درس 8

1-8 Learning Something Hard? The Coffee Shop Trick

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However, when these same memorizing aces are faced with a different type of medical school exam, for example a test related to how the heart functions, they find that just a few hours of last minute cramming just don't cut it. Whether we're trying to understand how to put together a new lighting rig, figuring out a pumping system of a human heart, or analyzing the multifaceted causes of World War II. Activities involving the diffuse mode like walking, or riding a bus, relaxing, or falling asleep, are more likely to lead you to creative ideas that can seem to arise from nowhere.

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When we’re studying we often drink caffeine, which enhances focus by diminishing the day dreaming alpha waves in our brain. This effect is strongest for about an hour after drinking a cup of coffee or tea. Although the energizing can persist about eight hours, which is why it’s sometimes better to avoid that evening cup of coffee. But when you’re doing something that is cognitively difficult, coffee isn’t the only booster. You’re often subconsciously using other tricks to increase your focus. For example, if you’re trying to remember something, you tend to avert your gaze. Which avoids overloading your working memory with unnecessary extra visual information from your environment. Even just closing your eyes can help you ignore distractors when you’re trying to bring something to mind. Let’s be honest here. Memorizing comes more easily for some people than others. Researchers still aren’t quite sure why, although there’s some evidence that having the right genes helps. But believe it or not, being a good memorizer can cause problems. In medical schools for example, when there’s a big anatomy test, ordinary medical students spend weeks preparing. They will practice over and over again to memorize thousands of terms in their related functions. Gifted memorizers, on the other hand, can procrastinate until just a few days before the test, spend a few hours glancing over the material, and they can still do well. However, when these same memorizing aces are faced with a different type of medical school exam, for example a test related to how the heart functions, they find that just a few hours of last minute cramming just don’t cut it. Medical school advisors can sometimes be startled to find these seemingly star students flunking certain sections of the curriculum. It seems that quickly memorizing anatomical terms related to the heart doesn’t allow you to understand and answer questions about the heart’s complex function. This is a reminder that simple focused concentration in memorization often isn’t enough when we’re trying to understand a complicated issue. It takes time to understand complicated systems. Whether we’re trying to understand how to put together a new lighting rig, figuring out a pumping system of a human heart, or analyzing the multifaceted causes of World War II. To untangle such complicated subjects, we often need to alternate a tight focus on the issue at hand with steps back to look at the bigger picture. Our need for occasional distraction during any given learning session may arise from these competing type focus versus big picture kinds of needs. Basically, it’s focused versus diffuse modes. The focus mode is primarily centered in the prefrontal cortex, the front part of the brain. The diffuse mode, on the other hand, involves a network connecting more wide spread areas of the brain. The more extensive nature of diffused thinking is why it’s often related to the unexpected connections that lie at the heart of creativity. Activities involving the diffuse mode like walking, or riding a bus, relaxing, or falling asleep, are more likely to lead you to creative ideas that can seem to arise from nowhere. If we’re in a very quiet environment, that quietness can hype up the focused mode attention circuits while simultaneously deactivating the diffuse mode. This is why quiet environments are ideal when we’re doing something that demands full concentrated attention, like doing our taxes or working on a difficult problem on a test. But sometimes we’re trying to understand bigger picture sorts of issues like cardiac function or computer network connectivity. In that case, a little sporadic noise, like a snippet of conversation with or the clatter of dishes in the back round of a coffee shop can help. This is because that bit of noise temporarily allows the longer range diffuse network to pop up. So, we briefly get a new perspective. This is so effective that there are even apps with coffee shop sounds. In the discussion forum, you might want to describe some of your favorite ideas for places to study and unexpected apps that have helped your learning. Of course, there can come a point when there’s just too much noise, which can keep you from concentrating at all. Finding a good learning environment can take a bit of exploration. But that’s good because it keeps you from getting too accustomed to any one study place, which can make your learning more effective.

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