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Tuesday, January 30, 2007

10,000 plus context plus care

From This is Your Brain on Music, The Science of Human Obsession by Daniel Levitin I find this quote worthy:
The ten thousand hours theory is consistent with what we know about how the brain learns. Learning requires assimilation and consolidation of information in neural tissue. The more experiences we have with something, the stronger the memory/learning trace for that experience becomes. Although people differ in how long it takes them to consolidate information neurally, it remains true that increased practice leads to a greater number of neural traces, which can contribute to create a stronger memory representation. This is true whether you subscribe to the multiple-trace theory or any number of variants of theories in the neuroanatomy of memory. The strength of a memory is related to how many times the original stimulus has been experienced.

Memory strength is also a function of how much we care about the experience. Neurochemical tags associated with memories mark them for importance, and we tend to code as important things that carry with them a lot of emotion, either positive or negative. I tell my students that if they want to do well on a test, they have to really care about the material as they study it. Caring may, in part, account for some of the differences we see in how quickly people acquire new skills.
So if you want to be an expert, you need to care about what you want to be an expert in!

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