Run-on Sentence Summary
Benedict Carey argues we should all chill out with our learning styles by giving a rundown of the surprising benefits of distractions, forgetting, sleep, etc. as he explores the psychology of learning.
This is a great little pop psych book. It is written compassionately, primarily for people trying to improve their test scores and study habits. For a book promising that the "collective findings of modern learning science provide much more than a recipe for how to learn more efficiently… they describe a way of life,” I found the preoccupation with testing a bit unfortunate.
Given the ambitious title, I was consciously keeping my expectations in check as I worked through this one. It is more of a hodgepodge of different ideas than a manifesto, but the tidbits it provides are consistently interesting. If you are looking for something more thorough, I highly recommend Visible Learning by John A.C. Hattie. The single most important idea that stood out to me was that if you want to remember something later, you need to take an active role in learning it. For instance, it says that the best way to memorize a passage is to spend 1/3 of your time reading it, and 2/3 of your time trying to recall it.
Simply trying to remember what you just learned is the single best thing you can do to enhance retention and understanding. It eliminates the “fluency illusion,” where you think you understand something better than you actually do because you have spent so much time passively studying, such as highlighting or reviewing notes. This same idea is why people say that “you don’t know it until you teach it.” Further, spaced repetition is an efficient way to learn something reliably.
This short book is entertaining and practical, and it delivers on its title.
“To build and retain foreign vocabulary, scientific definitions, or other factual information, it’s best to review the material one or two days after initial study; then a week later; then about a month later.”