Tag: memory

  • Why is Practice so Important?

    3,605 sixth graders from 91 different elementary schools were told to read a short test. Then immediately, they had to take a test based on it.

    Half of these students were given a practice test based on the same information for one to seven days. After the seventh day, all the students had to sit for a final test based on the same piece of information.

    The final test performance for the experimental text was reported separately for the top and bottom thirds of performers on the baseline measure. Overall, taking the practice test had benefited both groups of students. The testing effect appeared to be somewhat larger for higher-ability readers than for lower-ability readers. With approximately 12% to 20%, improvements in accuracy. This separates the learners and memorizers.

    The more you chew over the information, the more it gets embedded in your long-term memory. The students who practised more performed better than the ones who practised less or didn’t practice at all.

    It takes efforts but eventually, the hard work pays off. The crammed facts might help you pass a test but at last, only the learners who practised it well will have it stored in their brains for years.

    Understand → Learn → Practice

  • Notes on the Flynn Effect

    The Flynn Effect theory suggests that the IQ scores of the general population are rapidly increasing over time. With more researches being conducted, it’s believed that the Flynn Effect has already ended and has gone into reverse. This is an overview with more information to help you understand the Flynn effect theory, some causes and how the IQ scores once rose and have started declining now with the use of technology.

    What is the Flynn Effect?

    Flynn Effect is a theory that describes how over the last sixty years there has been a substantial rise in the IQ scores of the general population. James Flynn, a social scientist at the University of Otago, in New Zealand, documented this in 1984 and wrote a variety of academic books on it.

    The first question that comes to our brain is “why? what’s the reason behind this?” James Flynn lists several explanations to explain this but the major ones are based on how health, nutrition and education have improved. Even the more developed IQ testing system could be a reason. The education system is conducting frequent tests to make the younger generations more familiar with the competitive environment. The curriculum is constantly developing making the human IQs better and better.

    The Rise in IQ Scores

    The rise is intriguing because it occurred in those tests that aren’t easy to learn. The verbal intelligence has remained relatively flat but the non-verbal scores continue to rise. The figures could not be overlooked because it’s massive. In a 2013 TED talk Flynn mentions that “We don’t just get a few more questions right on I.Q. tests. We get far more questions right on I.Q. tests than each succeeding generation back to the time that they were invented. Indeed, if you score the people a century ago against modern norms, they would have an average I.Q. of 70. If you score us against their norms, we would have an average I.Q. of 130.”

    Recently, the new evidence shows something that’s been coming from the opposite end. A reverse of the Flynn Effect is being observed in certain locations which leads to a decline in the IQ score of the population. Currently, this has been named the ‘Negative Flynn Effect.’ Nine reports have been found suggesting this in seven countries across the world. The major causes being immigration, maternal age, sex ratio and Dysgenics. A literature review from 2016 mentions that “There are a number of limitations to this analysis. Ideally, in order to establish and understand the causes of the negative Flynn Effect, we need large samples, annual cohorts over a longer period of time, and, where possible, the ability to rule out potential confounding factors such as sex and immigration.”

    Why did the Flynn Effect happen?

    The education system and technique play an important role in the intelligence value of common people. The manner in which children are being evaluated presently is more developed and holistic. Flynn writes about the questions the state of Ohio gave to 14-year-olds in 1910 were about socially valued concrete information. They were things like, what are the capitals of the 44 or 45 states that existed at that time? But when they looked at the exams of the state in 1900, they were all about abstractions. They were things like, why is the largest city of a state rarely the capital?

    Another reason that contributes to the Flynn effect is the generally more stimulating environment. Learners these days are supposed to read books and watch movies like Harry Potter and derive sense out of them whereas they were just means of entertainment in the older times. Information is more widely available. People are having diverse interests which promote curiosity and leads to more learning. With the use of technology, knowledge is easy to consume through visual and audio forms which weren’t necessarily available in the past as it is today. The brain has a short term capacity to learn things. In the earlier times, people memorized information for learning but these days, schools are focusing more on making learners know the reasoning to consolidate it for long-term memory.

    A popular example Flynn gives is the question, What do a dog and a rabbit have in common? A modern respondent might say they are both mammals whereas someone a century ago might have said that humans catch rabbits with dogs. People were pragmatic back a century ago. They weren’t interested in hypotheticals or in classifying things together.

    Lastly, nutrition and healthcare improved and resulted in better IQ scores. The fewer members a family has, the better nutrition the children get. The nutritional improvement affects their intelligence positively and equally, which would be reflected in an overall mean IQ change. Wikipedia explains this by stating, “Today’s average adult from an industrialized nation is taller than a comparable adult of a century ago. That increase of stature, likely the result of general improvements in nutrition and health, has been at a rate of more than a centimetre per decade. Available data suggest that these gains have been accompanied by analogous increases in head size, and by an increase in the average size of the brain.”

    The Reverse of Flynn Effect

    People weren’t mentally retarded back in 1900. They were able to perfectly adapt to the circumstances they had, they could earn a living and you’ll probably not even able to comprehend the information in their 8th-grade textbook as it was so complicated. They were able to achieve great things in their circumstances which we can’t despite having the equipment.

    But intelligence has adapted over time, we can tackle problems better today because we know more (because of them). Flynn Effect did happen and the IQ has definitely evolved if not increased. The question is, is it still happening? Are we still getting smarter and smarter?

    It’s predicted that the Flynn Effect might have stopped in the 21st Century. More researches are being conducted about its reverse or the so-called “Negative Flynn Effect”. The Flynn effect theory was proposed in 1984 and technology has developed immensely in the last two decades.

    While discussing the Negative Flynn Effect, Will Conaway wrote, “Technology is changing our concept of time, and we are getting the brunt of the abuse. There’s an expectation to solve problems at the same speed as clicking through websites. Additionally, the amount of information online can give those working on a project a false sense of expertise; they read a few lines on a blog and often take action in the wrong direction.”

    Albert Einstein famously said, “It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity.” With many new distractions that didn’t exist back then, there’s no guarantee if we will keep getting smarter and if it will keep rising (or decline) in future.

  • Sleep to Remember – Sunday Clippings #2

    Hello there,

    One of the highlights of my life recently has been ‘sleep’. Sleeping on time leads to waking up on time and sleeping late leads to waking up late. I’ve realised is that – every human being needs 8 hours of sleep even if you don’t want it. Early birds or Night owls – everyone needs to sleep, those who work till late at night payback by sleeping during the daytime and the others sleep during nights (the normal people) and work during the daytime. There is no escaping sleep.

    Side note – This week, my sleeping routine thrived as it had never before, I slept at 10 or 11 pm and wake up at 6 am! And it was great! There’s a research paper called Sleep to Remember which talks about how a healthy sleep cycle has positive impacts on your learning and memory power.

    I have realised that sleeping to your stumbling blocks is an effective technique, the next day you wake up with a fresh attitude and a new state of mind to tackle it. The basic explanation for this is that when we’re asleep, there’s a loss of consciousness. This gives time to the newly encoded information to get absorbed in our long term memory. If you need to learn something properly, sleep is an essential factor (otherwise you’re cramming it for short term use).

    “Sleep has been identified as a state that optimizes the consolidation of newly acquired information in memory. There is also evidence that sleep after learning can provide a qualitative change to memories. Learning-activated engram neurons play a critical role in memory recall and selective sleep-associated reactivation of learning-activated sensory populations serves as a necessary instructive mechanism for memory consolidation.”

    Apart from brainpower, I’ve also observed that poor sleep quality leads to me waking up in a bad mood. And to avoid anger and mood disturbances I need to have a proper sleep pattern. Avoiding sleeping does add some extra hours for work but it takes away the quality and causes many serious health problems if it becomes a regular thing. Sleep runs in a circle, you just need to make the effort of joining the circle and it becomes normal and once you’re off the circle, it starts going anti-clockwise.

    The one key takeaway from this issue is to remember to sleep and sleep to remember. Sleep, Learning and Memory are correlated and important for a healthy and productive life. Don’t play with your sleep.

    Have a great week,


    This Week’s Clippings

    1 – Article – This article about Substack is eye-opening. They pay an elite, secret group of writers to make newsletter writing appear more lucrative than it is. This is really beneficial for Substack as more people will sign up and give them content for ‘their’ business.

    2 – TV Series – This week I watched this miniseries consisting of six instalments that takes place in the 1960’s during turbulent times in the United States. I loved it, there are some really hilarious scenes which led to me binge watching the whole series in a one day.

    3 – Video – Podcasts are a growing business. I really enjoyed this video about how podcasts became so popular. It seems like everyone already has a podcast these days. The video gives you an insight about the podcast revolution and why it grew so quickly.

    4 – Video – I learnt a lot from this video about the northern white rhinos who are on the brink of extinction. Only two females of this species are alive today. A group of scientists are attempting to save this nearly extinct species through artificial insemination.

    5 – Quote – “We are very good lawyers for our own mistakes, and very good judges for the mistakes of others” (Source: Hippie by Paulo Coelho)

    (This is an issue of the “Sunday Clippings”. Every week I compile various valuable ideas, learnings, along with my highlights from interesting articles, books and podcasts in a short and skimmable email newsletter. Sign up here to get future issues delivered directly to your inbox!)

  • Method of Loci

    Have you ever wondered the secret behind Sherlock Holmes’ sterling memory power? How he never seems to lose sight of important facts and connects the dots in almost an unreal manner.

    Recently, researchers have found the strategy behind his long-lasting memory. It’s based on the “method of loci” which is also known as the memory palace technique. “Loci” stands for places or locations in Latin.

    This method was originally used by the ancient Roman and Greek people to  remember their journey by dedicating an object to a certain place in order to remember it and feed it into the brain. They would wander through public buildings, stopping to study and memorize various locations and arranging them in order, usually starting with the door of the building. The method is relatively useful in memorizing things in a specific order than memorizing speeches word-for-word.

    For example –  The list of the coldest cities in Britain includes : Glasgow, Newport, Peterborough, Wakefield and Exeter.

    Now, picture yourself entering your house. The first thing you see is the glowing glass of the transom window above your front door (Glasgow).  As you walk in, you notice the new bookshelf you bought a week back to store the stacks of books you own (Newport).

    Now, you sight the painting hanging on your wall which was gifted to you by your brother Peter on your wedding anniversary (Peterborough). Just when you walk into your bedroom, you see your bed where you wake up tranquilly every morning (Wakefield). And finally, you catch sight of the back door that can be used to exit during fire emergencies (Exeter).

    You can use the method of loci as randomly you want. What I like about this technique is that besides being useful and functional, it’s really fun to learn. It counts on your creativity and is an alternative to cramming a piece of boring information. You can come up with funny mnemonics to remember the concepts and enhance your memory power. It links imagination to the topic making learning easier and more interactive.

  • On Book Summaries

    One of the most important things I’ve learnt in 2021 so far is how important it is to write Book notes after you read a book.

    Our brain is a memory bank but it has its own capacity. When we write summaries of the books we read, we actively put our brain to think what’s important by jotting it down on a blank sheet of paper.

    I definitely do not resonate with everything I read. In a Non-Fiction Book, there are some key takeaways that I would want to apply to my own life and there are some fillers and examples to amplify that point. The key is to retain what’s needed and throw away what’s extra.

    The 3 Step Rule to write book notes :

    1 – Make your Shorthand system to highlight the key points when you’re reading from a Paperback book. Or use the highlight option in Kindle or e-books.

    2 – After completing every chapter, grab a sheet of paper and write the chapter in your own words (without referring to the book).

    3 – When you finish reading the entire book, make sure to summarize the book in three points. The three things that you resonated with the most.

    (Optional) Make a Good Reads account and write a review of the book for others to read or to track your own reading journey. Also, if you own a website, you can publicize your Book Notes because it’s always a good idea to make things public.

    There are some striking books out there that have changed lives. They have significant knowledge stored in them but what’s the use of buying or reading them for 8 to 12 hours if the learnings don’t stick.

    Taking book notes is a beneficial and time-saving practice. If you store them safely, you can re-visit them after several years down the line to refresh your memory.

    It’s essential to be a picky reader when you read books. It’s not about how much you take in but about how much you can hold.

  • Blotted Thoughts

    Excessive technology usage impacts your memory bank, the way you think and your ability to remember things. Many thoughts enter your brain, stay for seconds and get lost in the past within seconds.

    Looking at this research online, I found that there’s a process called pruning in our brain “which removes neurons that are damaged or degraded to improve the brain’s networking capacity.

    This could be affected through all the time using tech.“ 

    This is surely a matter of debate but I believe that technology has destroyed our capability to retain creative thoughts and has made humans (in general) less imaginative and innovative. At least the ones who use it excessively. 

    One of the things we can’t live without is our phone and we keep it so close to us that the instant we hear the notification sound, our brain gets prompted to open and check what it is.

    Around 6,200 thoughts enter a human mind per day,

     a lot of the minor ones aren’t even worth retaining or discussing, 

    there are few which were exactly repeated from yesterday, 

    there are few which are significant and you wrote them somewhere,

    and the rest of them got blotted out in time before we could properly ink, think or examine them. If I can’t remember them, they practically never existed.