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7 Memory Skills That Will Make You Way Smarter

Good Will Hunting

Learning ability is probably the most important skill you can have.
Take it from Peter Brown, Henry Roediger, and Mark McDaniel, authors of "Make It Stick: The Science Of Successful Learning."
"We need to keep learning and remembering all our lives," they write. "Getting ahead at work takes mastery of job skills and difficult
colleagues ... If you're good at learning, you have an advantage in life."
And to learn something is to be able to remember it, say the authors, two of whom are psychology professors at Washington University in
St. Louis.
Unfortunately, lots of the techniques for learning that we pick up in school don't help with long-term recall like cramming or
To get over these bad habits, we scoured "Make It Stick" for learning tips.
But be warned: If it's difficult, it's good thing.
"Learning is deeper and more durable when it's effortful," the authors write. "Learning that's easy is like writing in sand, here today and
gone tomorrow."
Here are the takeaways:
Retrieval: Bring it back from memory.
When you're attempting to recall an idea, method, or technique from memory, you're retrieving. Flash cards are a great example: They force
you to recall an idea from memory, unlike a technique like highlighting where you're not burning anything into your brain. The reason
retrieval's so effective is that it strengthens the neural pathways associated with a given concept.
Elaboration: Connect new ideas to what you already know.
When you try to put a new idea into your own words, you're elaborating.
"The more you can explain about the way your new learning relates to prior knowledge," the authors write, "the stronger your grasp of the
new learning will be, and the more connections you create that will help you remember it later."
For instance, if you're in physics class and trying to understand heat transfer, try to tie the concept into your real-life experiences, say, by
imagining how a warm cup of coffee disperses heat into your hands.
Interleaving: Varying your subjects.
When you work on a variety of things at once, you're interleaving. If you're trying to understand a subject from the basics of economics
to hitting a pitch you're going to learn better if you mix up your examples. A sports case: Batters who do batting practice with a mix of
fastballs, change-ups, and curveballs hit for a higher average. The interleaving helps because when you're out there in the wild, you need to
first discern what kind of problem you're facing before you can start to find a solution, like a ball coming from a pitcher's hand.
Generation: Answer before you have an answer.
When you try to give an answer before it's given to you, you're generating. "By wading into the unknown first and puzzling through it, you
are far more likely to learn and remember the solution than if somebody first sat down to teach it to you," the authors write. In an academic
setting, you could work finding your own answers before class starts. In a professional setting, you could supply your own ideas when you're
stuck before talking with your boss.
Reflection: Evaluate what happened.
When you take a few moments to review what happened with a project or meeting, you'rereflecting. You might ask yourself a few questions:
What went well? Where can you improve? What does it remind you of? Harvard Business School researchers have found reflective writing
to be super powerful. Just 15 minutes of written reflection at the end of the day increased performance by 23% for one group of employees.
Mnemonics: Use hacks to recall.
When you're using an acronym or image to recall something, you're using a mnemonic. The hall of fame includes abbreviations Roy G.
Biv for the colors of the spectrum (Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet) and rhyming, like "in 1492, Columbus sailed the
ocean blue."
"Mnemonics are not tools for learning per se," the authors write, "but for creating mental structures that make it easier to retrieve what you
have learned."
Calibration: Know what you don't know.
When you get feedback that reveals your ignorance to you, you're calibrating. "Calibration is simply the act of using an objective instrument
to clear away illusions and adjust your judgment to better reflect reality." This is necessary since we all suffer from "cognitive illusions": We
think we understand something when we really don't. So taking a quiz or gathering feedback from a colleague helps you to identify
those blind spots.
For a deeper dig into the science of learning, make sure to pick up "Make It Stick." It's an illuminating read.

5 Theories For Why First-Born Children Are
Smarter And More Successful
We bugged out upon the discovery that first-born girls are the most ambitious of any kind of sibling,
at least when it comes to education.
If we include both daughters and sons, the privilege of the first-born becomes even more apparent:
Reports suggests that first-born kids have higher IQs andget further in business than their younger
Not only that, their parents consider them to be more accomplished.
What could cause such a gap?
Developmental psychology has a smattering of explanations, though none of them are conclusive.
One dating back to the '70s is called confluence theory. The idea is that kids' smarts grow in
accordance to the "intellectual culture" of their home - if you treat your kid like she's a small human,
her maturity will grow accordingly. But as more children enter into the family vortex, that intellectual
level goes down. In effect, the younger kids enter a more "diluted" intellectual culture.
Then there's the equity heuristic. According to this framework, parents want to invest the same
amount of attention into each of their kids. There's a problem though: When you only have one child,
he gets all of the attention. With two, it's halved. With three, even less. So while the intent is to invest
equally, the result is anything but.
Also consider the no one to teach theory. All sorts of research shows that teaching something is
the key to actually understanding it; older siblings, being older, have the opportunity to teach their
young sibs, but the babies of the family have nobody to receive their wisdom.
Unhappily, there's the divorce theory, which observes that family traumas like divorce are most
likely to happen after the first child has grown up a bit, making the family upheaval harder on the
younger kids.
Even less comforting is the evolutionary argument. It states that each kid is vying for attention of
the parents, but they do so in different ways - carving out niches like Darwin's finches. One kid's an
actor, another a star student, another an athlete; call it "Royal Tenenbaums" syndrome. The privilege
of the first kid, then, is that he gets to stake out his niche before any competitors emerge.
Which, as a younger sibling, I can report is totally unfair.