Are you able to remember stuff pretty well? If you learned that stuff quickly, you have a very good chance of retaining it. Even if you spent less time studying it than you might have.
These conclusions arise from a new study by psychologists at Washington University in St. Louis. According to its lead author, Christopher L. Zerr, “Quicker learning appears to be more durable learning.”
The study, published in the journal Psychological Science, tried a different way to gauge differences in how quickly and well people learn and retain information. Using word-pairs that paired English with a difficult-to-learn language, Lithuanian, the researchers created a “learning-efficiency score” for each participant.
“In each case, initial learning speed proved to be a strong predictor of long-term retention,” said senior author Kathleen B. McDermott, professor of psychological and brain sciences at Washington University.
46 of the participants returned for a follow-up study three years later. The results confirmed the earlier study’s results.
What explains this outcome? The researchers suggest two possibilities.
First, individuals may differ because those with better attention-control can be more effective while learning material, thus avoiding distraction and forgetting. Another explanation: efficient learners use more effective learning strategies, like using a key word to relate two words in a pair.
The researchers don’t think their job is done. Instead, they’d like to see future research on learning efficiency that would have an impact in educational and clinical settings.
The goal is to be able to teach students how to be efficient learners, and to forestall the effects of disease, aging, and neuropsychological disorders on learning and retention.
Conclusion: If you’ve always been a quick learner, that’s probably stood you in good stead, enabling you to remember stuff you learned quickly in the first place.
[This blog post is not the one I originally intended to write this month, when I planned to focus on how important it is to vote in the midterm elections in November. Publishing my new novel, RED DIANA, this month has kept me from writing that post, but I hope to publish it at some point. It would be something of a reprise of a post I published in September 2014, “What Women Need to Do.”]