In the tradition of The
Power of Habit and Thinking, Fast and
Slow comes a practical, playful, and endlessly fascinating guide to what we
really know about learning and memory today—and how we can apply it to our own
From an early age, it is drilled into our heads:
restlessness, distraction, and ignorance are the enemies of success. We’re told
that learning is all self-discipline, that we must confine ourselves to
designated study areas, turn off the music, and maintain a strict ritual if we
want to ace that test, memorize that presentation, or nail that piano recital.
But what if almost everything we were told about learning is
wrong? And what if there was a way to achieve more with less effort?
In How We Learn, award-winning science reporter Benedict
Carey sifts through decades of education research and landmark studies to
uncover the truth about how our brains absorb and retain information. What he
discovers is that, from the moment we are born, we are all learning quickly,
efficiently, and automatically; but in our zeal to systematize the process we
have ignored valuable, naturally enjoyable learning tools like forgetting,
sleeping, and daydreaming. Is a dedicated desk in a quiet room really the best
way to study? Can altering your routine improve your recall? Are there times
when distraction is good? Is repetition necessary? Carey’s search for answers
to these questions yields a wealth of strategies that make learning more a part
of our everyday lives—and less of a chore.
By road testing many of the counterintuitive techniques
described in this book, Carey shows how we can flex the neural muscles that
make deep learning possible. Along the way he reveals why teachers should give
final exams on the first day of class, why it’s wise to interleave subjects and
concepts when learning any new skill, and when it’s smarter to stay up late
prepping for that presentation than to rise early for one last cram session.
And if this requires some suspension of disbelief, that’s because the research
defies what we’ve been told, throughout our lives, about how best to learn.
The brain is not like a muscle, at least not in any
straightforward sense. It is something else altogether, sensitive to mood, to
timing, to circadian rhythms, as well as to location and environment. It
doesn’t take orders well, to put it mildly. If the brain is a learning machine,
then it is an eccentric one. In How We
Learn, Benedict Carey shows us how to exploit its quirks to our advantage. Download and start listening now!