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Monday, June 8, 2015

Stand Up Studying

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What I’m going to be going over, on the surface, looks an awful lot like a minor point. It, alone, won’t dramatically improve your grades. Yes, it can have a positive impact on them but the real point of this article will come later on. I’m going to be telling this in a bit of a unique way in hopes that it helps the most important concepts sink in.

What if I told you that you could improve your grades by studying while you’re standing up?

It probably sounds a little ridiculous on the surface. It seems like one of those micromanagement things that I’ve discussed in the past. By that I mean, it’s a minor detail that you could waste hours experimenting with just to find a weak correlation with better memory. A weak correlation is hardly worth the extra effort involved.

It might seem that way but I’d make the argument that it’s not.

Study Experiments

I’ve done hundreds of memory and study experiments in my life. I’ve constantly tried to find the most efficient way to learn the things that I had to learn. One of those experiments I did was with standing while studying. Of course, one semi-controlled experiment on an individual doesn’t mean all that much. That being said, considering I wasn’t trying to solve the problem for the world, I was just trying to solve the problem for myself, it was all I really needed.

By standing up while studying I increased by average memory test scores (long term and short term) by 5-10%. That is a relatively dramatic result for my average testing. The vast majority of my testing methods resulted in virtually no discernable data. This was an experiment that I was actually pretty confident in before starting because I had a theory.

I’d done a number of experiments using physical activity while studying. I had the theory that muscle activation helps improve memory.

This wild theory was repeatedly proven in my own experimentation. I hopped on one leg while studying. I used sign language. I did all kinds of bodily triggers for memories. Each one of my experiments showed a small memory increase when muscles were activated. That got me thinking that my theory was right.

Muscle Activation And Memory

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My theory was originally based on wild and unscientific evolutionary theory. I thought, memory was required for hunting, gathering, and running from dinosaurs (okay… I know that last one’s not true,) so perhaps, memory is designed to work better in physical situations. Physical situations were more life and death than non-physical ones.

My experimentation was able to prove (well-enough for my own personal use. It wouldn’t be nearly enough proof for a serious theory,) that unscientific theory. To some extent, science has already proved this theory with it’s on experiments.

Have you ever heard of muscle memory? Muscle memory is “riding a bike.” It’s the idea that, even with decades in between the last time someone rode a bike, they can still remember exactly how they need to move their muscles in order to not fall over. That’s actually an unbelievably complicated muscular movement that takes virtually no time to stick in the permanent memory.

Many experiments have gone even deeper with that memory and muscle connection though. Experiments have been done with subvocalization, sign language, and many other physical activities that show similar results. By activating your muscles while you’re studying, you introduce something else into your memory. Your brain is treating the situation with a higher priority than sitting on the couch with some flash cards.

What I Want You To Take From This

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Studying is a full body experience.

Now, I can’t promise that statement is 100% true. Perhaps there is some part of your body that doesn’t participate in the acquisition of memory. That being said, I recommend you imagine my statement is completely true. Study as if, studying is a full body experience.

What do I mean by a full body experience?

I have a friend that’s an artist. If we were to watch a movie together, he’d always pull out his sketch pad and draw while the movie was playing. At first, I found this awfully irritating. I thought, there is absolutely no way this guy is enjoying this movie. That’s when I tested my theory by quizzing him.

I asked him questions about the movie we were watching. With my first 10 questions, I couldn’t even tell he wasn’t watching the movie with all his energy. He constantly answered my questions right. (That was until I got into downright stupid questions like “what color shirt was this character wearing last scene?” I couldn’t have answered that one despite watching it.)

I asked him about this after that movie. He told me something like, “it may look like I’m not paying attention but I draw with almost none of my attention. It’s just doodling to help me focus.” (Naturally, his doodling makes my 100% focused drawing look like crap but that’s beyond the point.)

Not all things require all your attention to do. You can probably chew gum and walk at the same time. Many students try to treat studying as if it’s chewing gum and walking. Instead of giving their studying all of their attention, they spread their attention between as many things as possible.

Distractions are deadly to focus while studying. This may seem wierd based on how I presented the information so far.

As much as you like to think texting your friend while studying won’t devastate your studyings effectiveness, you’re wrong. Unless you can objectively prove through your own personal experiments, that you’re the exception to the rule, you should not be letting yourself listen to music, talk to friends, or surfing the web while studying. Those offer physical and mental distractions that do miserable things for your studying.

Wouldn’t activating your muscles while studying be a distraction from actually studying? To some extent, I imagine it is. If you were, for example, trying to learn to ride a bike, I have a feeling you would suck at memorizing anything else. What if you’ve already mastered riding a bike? Then I’d think memory would be improved. Instead of being distracted it would be a rhythmic muscle activation that virtually doesn’t distract you at all. (Unless you were, perhaps, in traffic or something.)
Now, throughout this article I drove this train of concepts right off the tracks and brought it down a few different dirt roads. Here is where I’m going to be trying to bring it back onto the tracks I was hoping to introduce you to…

What if mental activity can work similarly to physical activity when it comes to studying? If you had a rhythmic study interruption that didn’t require any focus to deal with, could it offer similar improvements to your ability to study?

What’s the answer? I don’t know.

My point: Studying is an unbelievably complicated subject that no one has even scratched the surface on. Everything I write in this blog is my attempted interpretation of the things I’ve learned and experienced.

Science is a constant tunneling of vision. Newton’s theories allowed scientists to focus their vision better. Despite all the progress made, Newton was proven wrong (or at least not 100% right) by Einstein. Einstein allowed scientists to focus their vision better. Some theorists think they’ve proved Einstein wrong in certain ways. Whether that’s true or not is irrelevant but the idea that a scientific theory can’t be proven wrong is faith and completely unscientific.

Experiment to learn more. Sure, this blog can help you focus better based on what science has discovered but if you ever get the curiosity to test for yourself, that would give me more pleasure than any of the grades you could get from talking this blog as gospel.

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