How To Teach Your Brain Something It Won’t Forget A Week Later

By | 2018-09-26T21:48:06+01:00 January 10th, 2018|HEALTH|0 Comments
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When Sylvester was growing up, he was taught to cram his way throughout (Yoruba people call it – Agberu-gbeso – Garbage-in Garbage-out). He’d have to memorize some lines in preparation for presentations – tests or examinations. It worked well back then when he got into the Higher Institutions of learning. In fact, he had colleagues who were also doing the same thing and that was a boost to his academic proficiency. However, he started noticing that as soon as the tests or exams are over, he could barely remember all the information has taken time to consume over time. This rather became a pain in his heart as, in classes time, lecturers would ask

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questions on what he had good grades in but he would fumble or manage to provide answers. Thus, this made him change his tactics of studying from reading by Cramming to Active Learning. He started reading, not for the purpose of tests, exams or presentation, but to be able to utilise whatever information exhumed to better the lots of others. Today, he spends the time to elicit facts not for the sake of it but for the good it will serve, by recalling, in years to come. Now, how can you teach your brain how to adapt to remembering things your had probably forgotten? Seriously, Cramming is good but you need to know the scientific implications of your career.

Here is what MARY SLAUGHTER wrote about the topic. (Mary Slaughter is executive vice president—global practices and consulting at the NeuroLeadership Institute. She partners with clients to apply the insights of the brain sciences to transform conventional human-capital practices and create sustainable behaviour change).


Of all the things you learned in school, chances are the right way to learn wasn’t one of them.

To make it through academic life, most of us opt for what psychologists call “massed practice,” better known as cramming: It’s Monday and your test is Friday, so you save studying for the night before. One four-hour session can nab you a passing grade, so why not?

Massed Practice
Massed practice is comprised of training or learning sessions that are long and intense as opposed to distributed practice which uses shorter and less intense sessions to impart information to a student or trainee. Massed practice has been shown through research to be ultimately less successful than the distributed practice model. 

As an example, it is ultimately more successful in college classwork to stay on top of a subject by frequent reviews of material rather than relying on all-night “cramming” the night before an exam.

Well, because that’s not how your brain likes to absorb information. You might remember enough to pass your exam the next day, but just a week or two later and the details will already be fuzzy, if not gone completely. Here’s how to do better.

I was thinking about how people seem to read the Bible a whole lot more as they get older; then it dawned on me - they're cramming for their final exam. - George Carlin

George Carlin

It’s easy to carry those bad learning habits into working life, reviewing the key materials for a big meeting just an hour beforehand, or staying up the night before to prepare for a presentation.

But this approach is neither sustainable nor scalable. In my consulting work at the NeuroLeadership Institute (NLI), I meet countless employees at hundreds of companies who are drowning under the weight of all the new skills and processes they’re asked to pick up quickly and completely, remember, and then put into practice. It’s a surefire recipe for burnout and ever-falling productivity.

Read also: Warning: Inactivity Can Seriously Damage Your Health

As brain scientists have dug into how learning really works, they’ve discovered that massed practice only leads to remembering things over the short term. You study Thursday, take the test Friday, and forget it all by Sunday. It’s a fine strategy for when you’re learning something you don’t really care about. But if you want (or need) the learning to stick–like, say, because it’s going to increase your performance or improve your career–it pays for space things out.


The “spacing effect” is one of the most consistently replicated mental processes in psychological history, dating back to Hermann Ebbinghaus, who observed it in 1885. With a little more planning and foresight, you can tap into that cognitive phenomenon to take better advantage of how your brain actually works.

Spacing Effect
Spacing Effect states that we learn material more effectively and easily when we study it several times spaced out over a longer time span, rather than trying to learn it in a short period of time.

As you can guess, this means that cramming for an exam the night before is not as effective as studying material each night over a week or some period of time. There’s one caveat – this holds true for material you want to store for a long time (i.e., really store it in memory), whereas cramming can work to store information for short periods of time.


Lila Davachi

According to Lila Davachi, a Columbia University cognitive neuroscientist specializing in memory and an NLI research scientist, spacing gives you extra learning “for free.” You don’t have to study anymore, she says, and you could maybe even get away with less.

“We measure experiment participants’ brain activity while they’re learning, trying to take in the information, and then ask them to rest,” Davachi says of her research. “Unbeknownst to the subject, we’re looking at their brain during rest. And they just mind wandering.” This stage is crucial, she explains. “We see there is a footprint of what was happening during the learning; the brain continues to rehearse the prior information.” Davachi has found that participants whose brains show more replay during that rest period do better on recall tests later.

“Your brain is doing your work for you while you’re doing other tasks,” she adds.


A four-hour marathon study session (or team meeting or conference presentation) demands a ton of sustained attention, the quality of which will inevitably dwindle the longer those periods last. It simply makes more sense, cognitively speaking, for teams to opt for small doses of high-quality learning–sessions lasting under an hour, with lots of discussion and participation–to make insights stick without taking up much time.


You can follow this same principle on your own. Rather than cramming four hours the night before a test or a meeting,

schedule a handful of 30- to 60-minute sessions in the preceding week or 

weeks to prep on your own or have a friend or colleague quiz you.

It isn’t rocket science, but it does take a little forethought and time management. Sometimes an app can help. My kids, ages 13 and 16, use an app called Quizlet. You log the date of your test and what you need to learn, and the software creates a study plan for you to follow, sending reminders to keep you on track. 


Quizlet is a mobile and web-based study application. It is currently used by 1-in-2 high school students and 1-in-3 college students in the United States. It was created by Andrew Sutherland in October 2005 and released to the public in January 2007. Quizlet trains students via flashcards and various games and tests.

Whatever method you use, the scientific and actionable truth is this: Cramming for a meeting probably won’t help you show off your expertise in any meaningful way. The deeper conversations that let you demonstrate your knowledge all tend to require recall and insight–in other words, they rely on the stuff you can remember deeply and for a long time. But the good news is that your brain is already built to acquire and store information that way, just as long you space out the learning process from the outset. Done right, that will ultimately take less time and effort than any last-minute cram session ever could.

RelatedYour Brain Has A “Delete” Button–Here’s How To Use It

There is certainly no better way to maintaining a healthy lifestyle if you are not helping someone tap into his/her potentials. Let’s eliminate ignorance from our society.

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Idea Source: Lila Davachi, Mary Slaughter


About the Author:

I am a blogger, graphics designer and website designer. I am also-the Managing Editor of Community Watch Magazine as well as-the Content Manager of Runways Magazine.

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