How Do You Learn?

Learning is something we do throughout our lives. We learn to walk, to talk, to play, to interact with others. Sometimes we have formal education, from elementary school to high school, to college, graduate school, perhaps even adult education. We learn on the job, how to be a good spouse and then a parent.

With all this learning happening, knowing how you learn can have a big impact on your life. Understanding what works for you to remember, recall, and utilize information is paramount.

Some people get the most out of education by seeing. Others might internalize best through hearing. Perhaps you learn best by writing. Or doing.

With the important role learning plays in our lives, it is a little surprising schools don’t offer formal education in how to study. Students are usually expected to just figure out what works best for themselves.

If you were to take such a class, or perhaps even to teach it, what would it show? How do you learn?

Related questions: How does your vocabulary influence how you think? What are the benefits of fiction? How do you define success? How do we know what we don’t know? What makes something memorable? How important is the repetition in our lives?

What Is Unknowable?

Knowledge is ever increasing, and often it seems to increase by leaps and bounds. We know more today than we have ever known, and we add to that store of information every day.

The universe, our own genetics, manipulation of materials, the building blocks of matter — all are areas where we are learning more all the time. Sometimes it seems that we will be able to keep on learning and growing what we know indefinitely.

But even if we continue to accumulate knowledge, some things may be beyond our grasp.

It may be that some problems are just too large. For example, the number of ways an ordinary deck of player cards can be arranged is greater than the number of atoms on the earth. Writing them all out can’t be done.

However, some things just might be impossible to know. What is it like to live in five-dimensional space?

What is unknowable? How might we classify unknowable things? Which Intellectual Roundtable questions have unknowable answers?

Related questions: How do we know what we don’t know? How does creative expression help us to know ourselves better? Why are we fascinated with the unknown? What’s the most useful thing you’ve ever learned?

What Makes Something Memorable?

When you make a plan, the hope is that it turns out to be memorable. If, for example, you go on a vacation, you might plan a trip to a museum, or a zoo, or to go to a charming cafe. The hope is that you will make a memory that you will carry with you for the rest of your life.

However, in reality, you can’t manufacture memorable moments. If you think back to those times in your life that mean the most to you, those moments you recall are often unexpected. They might be good or they might be bad, but the times that stick with you are things you didn’t expect.

For example, for many people a wedding day is a memorable time in their lives. And while the wedding itself is planned and organized, the instances that often are most memorable are unplanned: something that went wrong, or something someone said to you, or a funny spontaneous moment.

But being unplanned is not enough to make something memorable. I might stub my toe walking around my home, but that isn’t a memorable event even though it was unexpected. It also needs to be unusual or noteworthy in some way.

So what are the elements that make an occurrence memorable? While you can’t plan spontaneity, are there things you can do to make a memory more likely to happen? Can you discern a pattern from examining your most significant memories?

What makes something memorable?

Related questions: What is your favorite experience? Are memories more likely to be bad than good? What makes you the happiest? How many of your memories are false? What was the best time in your life?