If you think a topic is easy, then start studying it NOW !

perceptions don't always match reality when it comes to studyingWhen there is so much to study and so little time, how do you decide where to concentrate your efforts ?

The week’s Neurotechnology Tip warns that being overconfident can backfire……………….. sometimes if you think you’ll ace that exam, it might be time to start studying for it.

The disconnect between belief and performance

Unfortunately we often do a breathtakingly bad job of lining up our beliefs and performance.

Just because when you encounter a body of information it feels easy to digest, does not always mean that you have actually got it. Feeling good about a topic, is not the same as learning it.

Metamemory experiments

Researchers from Williams College tested out the theory that beliefs and judgements about memory, have little to do with reality.

They enrolled 80 people and explored the relationship between actual memory and perceived memory.

The participants were shown a series of words in large and small fonts and asked to predict how well they’d remember each.

BIG FONTS were considered EASY. Seeing the words in bigger letters made reading much less tedious, so participants expected that they’d be easier to remember.

But in reality, when push came to shove, and participants had to recall the words. Words in big fonts were no easier to remember than the words in a small font.

Processing is not “processing”

When something feels easy to learn, we are using “automatic processing” to assimilate it, which means we don’t make much effort to get it to stick.

When something feels difficult to learn, we are using “effortful processing”, which means we are putting in a lot of work to make it stick.

Putting lots of effort in, means that the neuronal pathway which holds that memory is strong. A strong pathway results in the memory being embedded in the brain. A memory which is fixed in the brain is far more likely to surface in an exam or test than one which popped in.

A memory that popped in will pop out, when you’re not looking !

The easy things can be your undoing

Over the years I have seen many learners crash and burn on the easy stuff. The subjects which should crush them – were handled like pros, but the straightforward bits and pieces caused major difficulties.

So make sure you pay attention to the “easy” not just the “difficult” as you swot for finals.

The Ease of Processing Heuristic and the Stability Bias: Dissociating Memory, Memory Beliefs, and Memory Judgments.  Psychological Science (2011) 22(6)”787-94.  Kornell N, Rhodes MG, Castel AD, Tauber SK.


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Further reading

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How to avoid choking in an exam  How to download more facts into your brain Scent Of Fear boosts Performance 

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Did you learn something new or do you have a different perspective ? I’d love to hear from you so post me a comment below…..

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  1. [...] If you think a topic is easy, then start studying it NOW ! [...]

  2. By » Blog Archive » Round up 7 Nov – 11 Nov on November 14, 2011 at 9:41 pm

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