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Surprising Science

Help Your Brain Learn Better

What if all the study habits you were taught in school are wrong? Psychologists now say not to take notes, to stop studying for extended periods and to study in many different places.

What’s the Latest Development?

Understanding how the brain works will give you insight into how we learn and how we can use our knowledge of the brain to help us learn better. Do not try to master one thing at a time, says UCLA psychologist Robert Bjork. Instead, mixing a variety of information into your lessons will give each fixed point more context, a powerful tool when it comes to memory retrieval. Also, take long breaks between study sessions. The more energy you exert in pulling up information to the present, the more likely you are to remember it.

What’s the Big Idea?

Misconceptions about how the brain works have helped to develop bad learning habits among generations of students, young and old. Even taking notes during a lecture, a practice so ingrained it seems impossible to advise against, will only help so much. It is better to take notes after class, says Bjork, forcing your brain to try harder to remember information. Instead of just trying to remember information, train your mind how to remember information better by focusing on the retrieval process of memory.

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