Diversify Your Learning to Remember More

On a recent Southwest flight, I found this little gem in the inflight magazine. Under the heading "Life Science" it says: "Research geek Garth Sundem interviewed 130 scientists for his new book, Brain Trust. Here, he translates their research into smart tips for everyday situations." I'm going to share this other one with you, because it really resonated and I think there's a lesson for expats: How to Learn new things

Expert: Robert Bjork, distinguished professor of psychology, University of California, Los Angeles

"Bjork, a leader in the fields of learning and memory, recommends interleaving. Rather than focusing on a single skill, it's better to work on several related ones, switching your focus among them. He explained it in terms of tennis: If you spend two hours working on your serve, you'll improve. But if you spend two hours interleaving several skills - volleying, forehand swings, footwork - the sum of the little, imperceptible steps in each area will, over time, be greater than if you had focused on each one individually."

I think that's fascinating, particularly if perhaps you have a preference for Sensing and prefer to do things one-at-a-time. What does this mean for expats? Try immersing yourself in the language, the cooking, and the socializing at the same time and see what happens. It seems overwhelming and counter-intuitive if you want to develop one skill really well, because you're diluting your focus. However, it makes sense when you think of the neuronal connections that are being formed and that will help your brain make the leap from one subject to the neighboring one, remembering related lessons, filling in the gaps as needed.

Let us know how you get on in the comments! :-)


Image by Ian Muttoo, Flickr, Creative Commons License.