How We Learn Book Summary - How We Learn Book explained in key points
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How We Learn summary

Benedict Carey

The Surprising Truth About When, Where and Why It Happens

4.3 (199 ratings)
17 mins

Brief summary

How We Learn by Benedict Carey shows us that conventional study habits are not always the most effective way to learn and retain information. Instead, the book offers various learning techniques and memory tricks to help us be more efficient and successful learners.

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    How We Learn
    Summary of 8 key ideas

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    Key idea 1 of 8

    Memories are formed through the connection of cells and are stored in specific areas of the brain.

    To understand the most effective studying and learning methods, we must first understand the basics about the brain. How does it create memories? And how do we retrieve them?

    Memories are created through the process of connecting different neurons, or cells which send signals within the brain to transmit information.

    A memory, such as your first day at school, is created when neurons are stimulated and then form a network of many connected neurons, called synapses.

    Each time we retrieve a specific memory, synapses essentially grow thicker. In other words, having thicker synapses means our recall of that memory or information stored in that network is faster and clearer.

    But memories aren’t stored all in the same place, forming one huge knot of synapses. In fact, different types of memory form in different areas of the brain.

    The area of the brain that forms new, conscious memories, such as the name of the person you’ve just met, is called the hippocampus.

    Fascinatingly, people whose hippocampus has been removed or destroyed are still able to retrieve older memories, which shows us that older memories are stored somewhere else: in a region called the neocortex. This area of the brain is divided further, into areas that control how we move or how we process what we see.

    When you think about your first day of school, for example, your brain “looks” for where that sensory information is stored. If you remember clearly the dingy green color of the school hallway, then this memory would be stored in neurons located in the visual processing section of your neocortex.

    So, if a memory includes lots of different stimuli – colors or smells or textures – stored by many neuronal networks in different regions of the brain, you can understand why you can remember these memories more clearly: more connections in more places means better recall.

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    What is How We Learn about?

    How We Learn explains the fascinating mechanisms in our minds that form and hold memories, and shows how with this information, we can better absorb and retain information. You’ll explore the many functions of the brain and gain practical advice on how to better study and learn.

    How We Learn Review

    How We Learn (2014) by Benedict Carey explores the science of learning and provides valuable insights on how to optimize our learning abilities. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • Offering a fresh perspective on traditional learning methods, it challenges common assumptions and introduces unconventional techniques that are proven to be effective.
    • The book draws on scientific studies and real-life examples to provide practical strategies that can be applied to various learning situations, making it highly relatable and applicable.
    • By explaining the cognitive processes behind learning and memory, it equips readers with a deeper understanding of their own learning style, empowering them to become more efficient and successful learners.

    Best quote from How We Learn

    In a fundamental sense, sleeping is learning.

    —Benedict Carey
    example alt text

    Who should read How We Learn?

    • Anyone who wants to get better grades in school or be a more productive learner
    • Anyone interested in how the brain works
    • Anyone interested in psychology

    About the Author

    Benedict Carey is a science reporter for The New York Times and has penned a number of books, including Poison Most Vial and The Unknowns.

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    How We Learn FAQs 

    What is the main message of How We Learn?

    Discover the science-backed techniques and strategies to optimize learning and improve memory.

    How long does it take to read How We Learn?

    The reading time for How We Learn varies depending on the reader's speed. However, the Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is How We Learn a good book? Is it worth reading?

    How We Learn is a valuable read for anyone interested in understanding the learning process and maximizing their learning potential.

    Who is the author of How We Learn?

    The author of How We Learn is Benedict Carey.

    What to read after How We Learn?

    If you're wondering what to read next after How We Learn, here are some recommendations we suggest:
    • Learn Like a Pro by Barbara Oakley and Olav Schewe
    • Grasp by Sanjay Sarma
    • Remember by Lisa Genova
    • Learn Better by Ulrich Boser
    • Moonwalking with Einstein by Joshua Foer
    • The First 20 Hours by Josh Kaufman
    • Why Don’t Students Like School? by Daniel T. Willingham
    • The 5 AM Club by Robin Sharma
    • Stillness Is the Key by Ryan Holiday
    • How Highly Effective People Speak by Peter Andrei