What Is Learning?

A little learning is a dangerous thing;
Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring.
There shallow draughts intoxicate the brain,
And drinking largely sobers us again.

- Alexander Pope, Essay on Criticism, II, 215

Podcast of the Day

Most of us love being able to look up just about anything on our smart phones and know the answer in an instant. In fact, we’ve come to rely on it. But do you ever worry about what that’s doing to our brains and our capacity to retain knowledge? Some argue that it’s more important now than ever to learn how to learn more effectively. We bust some of the myths about learning, and explore the psychology of mastering new skills and absorbing information.

Listen to the All in the Mind episode: Learning to Learn

Video of the Day

Short Article of the Day

A few classic studies help to define the way we think about the science of learning. A classic study isn’t classic just because it uncovered a new fact, but because it neatly demonstrates a profound truth about how we learn – often at the same time showing up our unjustified assumptions about how our minds work.

A classic study defines where research will go next – whether to confirm, disprove or qualify the original finding – and helps us to reorganise our learning to be more effective.

I’m a psychologist, so you won’t be surprised that my choice of classic studies concern the mental processes rather than the social processes involved in learning. Other people might pick a different five studies, but these are mine...

Continue reading Tom Stafford's article: The science of learning: five classic studies

Further Reading

Learning is the process of acquiring new or modifying existing knowledge, behaviors, skills, values, or preferences. The ability to learn is possessed by humans, animals, and some machines, and there is also evidence for some kind of learning in some plants. Some learning is immediate, induced by a single event (e.g. being burned by a hot stove), but much skill and knowledge accumulates from repeated experiences. The changes induced by learning often last a lifetime, and it is hard to distinguish learned material that seems to be "lost" from that which cannot be retrieved.

Human learning begins before birth and continues until death as a consequence of ongoing interactions between person and environment. The nature and processes involved in learning are studied in many fields, including educational psychology, neuropsychology, experimental psychology, and pedagogy. Research in such fields has led to the identification of various sorts of learning. For example, learning may occur as a result of habituation, or classical conditioning, operant conditioning or as a result of more complex activities such as play, seen only in relatively intelligent animals...

Continue reading the Wikipedia article on Learning

Bonus Webcomic

Related Topics

CognitionCuriosity | IgnoranceIntelligence | KnowledgeMemoryNeurosciencePsychology | School | The Value of Knowledge

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