8 Scientifically Proven Ways
to Learn Faster
and Retain Information

8 Scientifically proven ways to learn faster
In these fast times learning faster and retaining information is an indispensable skill.

Without a doubt, the faster you learn, the more successful you will be no matter whether you're a student, business person, or someone who enjoys learning new things. 

Certainly, there are many learning techniques and ways to learn faster, however, there are also scientifially proven ways to make it even  more effective.   

So here are 8 scientifically proven ways to learn faster and better retain information!

1. Articulate out loud what you want to remember. A recent study at the University of Waterloo has established that articulating information out loud helps it penetrate into long term memory by way of the "production effect".

In other words, the dual action of speaking and hearing yourself has the most impact on memory.

According to Colin M. MacLeod and Noah Forrin, the authors of the above study: 

"When we add an active measure or a production element to a word that word becomes more distinct in long term memory, and hence more memorable."

I must admit, whenever I really want to retain information, I talk to myself out loud and my mind seems to access the information much more quickly!

2. Take notes by hand instead of typing. Certainly, most of us can type faster than we write, however, according to experiments conducted by Pam Mueller and Daniel Oppenheimer, students who write out their notes on paper instead of typing them verbatim, actually learn more.

Across three studies those who wrote out their notes by hand had a better conceptual understanding of the material than those who took notes with their laptops. They were also better at integrating and applying the material covered.

3. Apply distributed practice. Instead of trying to cram information for a test, work presentation, or the like, it is more beneficial to study the information in chunks and small intervals.

According to studies in Cognitive Psychology of Memory, by spacing out information at different times, we make different associations with it learn fasterand therefore encode it into our brains differently.

This makes the information easier to retrieve because when we make a variety of associations with information, it is easier to remember.

In other words, the more associations, the less likely we will forget.

Another explanation of this "contextual variability" is that when information gets encoded into memory, some of the context does as well, making it much easier to retrieve.

As an example, consider when you hear a certain song, or smell a particular fragrance, how it evokes memories of where you were and how you felt when you first encountered it.

4. Learn in a variety of ways. Rather than learning something in one way, such as reading, try listening to a podcast, or watching a video.  Combining auditory and  visual learning reinforces memory better than merely using one method.

Then, repeat the information both verbally and visually by describing it to someone or writing notes about it. By processing and learning information in different and assorted ways, it becomes more ingrained, which consequently helps you retain it much longer.

According to learning researcher Judy Willis:

"The more regions of the brain that store data about a subject, the more interconnection there is. This redundancy means students will have more opportunities to pull up all of those related bits of data from their multiple storage areas in response to a single cue. This cross-referencing of data means we have learned, rather than just memorized." 

5. Test yourself to learn better. In an issue of the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory and Cognition, Vered Halamish and Robert Bjork write about the advantages of studying by testing yourself over the traditional methods of studying.

The experiment they conducted revealed that students who studied, and were then tested, had significantly better long-term recall of the materials than students who had extra time to study, but were not tested.

When you test yourself, you are forcing yourself to reflect upon and review the material. The testing effect works because you successfully retrieve information which then makes the memories stronger and easier to retain. 

6. Learn faster by connection or association. Certainly, isolated information is more difficult to remember than information that is connected to other concepts.

When trying to connect ideas, if you can't think of a way to do so with something you already know, make up a nonsensical or silly association.

Another way of connecting information is evoking a memorable visual image to represent it.

As an example, if you’ve just met a girl named Angela, a way to remember her name would be to associate her with, or picture her as, an angel.

Indeed connecting or associating ideas helps us learn and remember them longer.

7. Make exercise a priority. As I mention in my article, The Benefits of Regular Exercise, regular exercise greatly improves memory and cognitive function.

Similarly, a study at McMaster University and published in the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience found that periods of high intensity exercise are increasingly beneficial for memory and fitness.

These findings are even more crucial when an aging population is tackling debilitating diseases such as dementia and Alzheimer's.

The study also found that exercise helps increase a chemical called BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor), a protein that supports the growth, function and survival of brain cells.

8. Get Some Good Sleep. In addition to helping you get refreshed and rejuvenated, researchers have long suspected that sleep plays an important role in learning and memory.

Never the less, it has only been within the last decade that neuroscientists have concluded that memory is indeed dependent upon sleep.

It is during sleep that memory consolidation and sythesis occur. Sleep triggers changes in the brain which solidify memories by strengthening connections between brain cells and transferring the information from one brain region to another. Also, when one sleeps, the brain replays various experiences from the day which, in turn, reinforces the memory of what happened. 

Some additional good news is that quite often even a catnap can improve memory recall.

As you can see, there are many great scientifically proven ways to learn faster and better retain information.

No doubt, using some or all of the above strategies will help you improve both your learning and retaining of information.

Photo credit: Kaboompics
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