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Friday, October 9, 2015

Studying With Psychology

This year, I have been taking psychology, and I love it. It's extremely interesting and is quite practical. Conveniently, the first few units were on learning and memory, so here are a few tips to enhance your studying:

1.Study more with operant conditioning.
Operant conditioning, to put it simply, is encouraging or discouraging a behavior using reinforcement (aka reward) or punishment, respectively. So, you can use the principles of operant conditioning to enhance your study habits. Say you want to study math everyday for at least 30 minutes. If you achieve your goal, reward yourself with a small treat, like a piece of candy. Doing this continuously will help make it a habit. (Fun fact: without using reinforcement, a habit takes an average of 66 days to establish.)  However, once the habit is established, be sure to lessen the reward gradually, so you don't get used to studying just for the sake of earning a treat.


2. Don't study similar things right after each other
Have you ever had something "on the tip of your tongue"? If so, you have been the victim of recall interference, which is when you remember something, but can not explicitly say or recall it. Two types of recall interference are proactive interference and retroactive interference. The former is when something you learned before prevents you from remembering what you learned recently. The latter is when what you learned recently stops you from remembering what you learned before. So how can this help you study? It helps if you don't study things that can easily interfere with each other during the same time. For example, don't study Spanish right after French, or you risk not recalling the French translations when you need it.

3. SLEEP (and study right before you sleep).
Sleep is super important to long-term memory formation. The hippocampus, an organ in the brain which acts as the "save" button for memories, is active when you sleep. Some scientists believe that when the body sleeps, the hypothalamus decides which information to store in the long-term, filtering out the irrelevant ones. Another sleep related tip is to study right before you sleep. (Note: "right before" means an hour before, not five minutes before.) This reduces the chance that something you experience will interfere with what you wanted to learn. 
4. Space out the studying.
Cramming the day before the test can definitely show results, but not in the long term. Information that is learned quickly and not used afterward will quickly be forgotten. To retain information longer, it is best to space out studying. This also helps to combat the curve of forgetting, which shows the progression of forgetting information that is not being used. This phenomenon often causes the last-minute race to relearn material from early in the semester right before the final. 

5. Retrieve, not reread

Although reading your textbook over three times feels comforting, it is not the best way to commit things to memory. Instead, psychologists recommend retrieving the information by testing yourself on the material. A way to incorporate this into your studying is with the SQ3R method (survey, question, read, respond, review). It can also help ensure that you truly understand the material, rather than just memorizing definitions and formulas without their meanings. 


Hopefully, you find these study tips helpful. Feel free to put some of your tried-and-true study tips in the comments!

Written by Jenna M., Homework Assistant 






    

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