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Published on December 11, 2019

How Social Learning Helps You Learn Faster

How Social Learning Helps You Learn Faster

Learning new behavior by observing is called social learning. Social learning helps you learn faster as you are observing other people’s behavior in a social context because knowledge and habits are acquired easily when they are practiced by people within a certain environment.

Through centuries, humans have incorporated social learning in their lives. From initially being the only way to learn it is now the fastest and most comprehensive learning method.

In this article, you’ll find out how you can make good use social learning to help you learn faster.

The social learning theory as presented by Albert Bandura is simple. It suggests social learning is based on attention, retention, motivation and reproduction.[1]

While these stages seem like common sense, there is a surprisingly large number of people who go through social interactions without learning anything because they aren’t actively practicing the different stages.

Attention

Since our mind has a limited capacity for storing data, it is the things that we pay attention to that stay with us as lessons learned. Giving 100% of your attention to a situation you learn from is guaranteed to help you maximize social learning:

Stay in the Moment

When you’re focused on learning from your surroundings, your mind will focus only on what it wants to learn, so distractions fade away. Yet it’s very normal to be in a situation where the information you are getting becomes monotonous or you get distracted for some other reason.

There may be times you lose focus because you’re not well or are tired. Make sure you are well-rested and take care of your health so you can spend your energy learning things that matter to you.

Make an effort to declutter your mind when you want to learn – step up to a window and look out, focusing on only one object you see outside for a few minutes. You could also get yourself a drink and savor every sip till it finishes and your mind calms down.

If you’re looking to give your brain a break from the daily grind, learn some tricks in my article What Is Mentally Tired? 11 Ways to Combat Brain Exhaustion.

Be Mindful

Mindfulness in its simplest terms is tuning our thoughts into what we’re experiencing in the present rather than thinking about something that could or did happen.

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For social learning, you should be mindful only of the conversation or activity you want to learn from, filtering out other things that don’t matter to you as much at that moment. This way, your brain can make memories of what you are experiencing at that time only, which is the thing you want to learn.

If you find yourself getting distracted, focus on deep breathing until the distractions fade away and you can bring your attention back to the learning opportunity at hand.

Focus, and Don’t Multitask

In today’s hyper-connected world, it’s normal, even expected to be a multitasker. Being amongst people and checking emails on smart phones is now accepted.

However, when you want to maximize your social learning, don’t multitask. You should focus only on the interaction you want to learn from and block out all the rest.

Don’t reach for your device, don’t engage in multiple conversations simultaneously. In short, don’t have your mind and other senses deal with anything apart from learning.

Engage Actively

Similar to the above points, learning through social learning is fast and easy if you listen, speak and observe actively.

When you’re actively engaged, you respond to the situation by making relevant observations, mimicking the actions and focusing on listening so you understand.

To maximize the benefits of learning through social learning, be around those who are attentive and looking to learn as well. A good example of this would be medical students on clinical rotations who are actively observing and listening to the doctor they are assigned to, and responding to his / her queries.

Legitimize your participation in situations by interacting and recalling the interaction when needed.

Retention

Paying attention is great for learning, but what about retaining the new information?

Our brain has limited space to store data, so how do we ensure we remember things that are important to us?

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These tips should help increase your retention power:

Repeat to Remember

Our brain starts developing from the moment we are born, absorbing things from people and experiences around us. It is learning constantly, and repeated experiences help reinforce the learning.

A new experience opens up new neural pathways in our brain and repetition of these experiences strengthens the pathways, helping us retain the information better and for longer.

To help remember, you could memorize a fixed number of things about the social learning scenario you are in and recall them frequently.

Increase Brain Power

You can improve retention by increasing your brain power: exercise regularly, sleep well and stretch memory muscle by playing brain games.

Here’re more ways to help: How to Increase Brain Power: 10 Simple Ways to Train Your Brain

Make Connections

Connect a social learning opportunity with mnemonics. Use mental images, music and anything else you want to retain and recall information.

Link new information with old to reach new conclusions. You can use writing and speech for this.

Remember That Less Is More

When you are looking to retain knowledge through social learning, try taking in information in small quantities.

Full day conferences, lectures that last for hours and similar learning schedules do not have the desired effect. The human mind shuts down when it is faced with information overload and the learning from these situations becomes minimal.

If you are looking to retain information from social learning opportunities, it’s a far better idea to put yourself in the situation more frequently for a shorter amount of time.

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Motivation

The idea of a tangible reward or the emotional high that comes with the sense of accomplishment is what motivates us to keep doing a good thing, while the fear of repercussions or unpleasant outcomes is what keeps from doing something bad.

When a child observes that good behavior of a sibling results in them getting a treat while bad behavior courts punishment, the child wanting a treat will be motivated to good behavior by this social learning lesson.

Motivation to learn new information and habits is a critical part of social learning. To stay motivated for social learning, you can:

Find a Role Model

Finding a role model and basing our learning on them means you are motivated to do the same thing that they are.

The medical students example fits well here again. The students will be motivated to learn better clinical skills and patient handling techniques by observing others around them and aspiring to be as good as they are.

Make a Note

Write down things that inspired you and keep going back to them to stay motivated.

Talk about It

Talk to your role model or peers about what is motivating you in a shared social learning environment.

An example of this is a person in rehab who is motivated to attend meetings by the presence of others who have managed to kick the addiction and are on the road to recovery.

Positive motivation is reward-based motivation (satisfied patients) and negative motivation is punishment-based motivation (absolute dependence on drugs).

To learn more about the merits / demerits these two types of motivation, read my article Positive Motivation vs Negative Motivation: Which One Is Better?

Remember, no matter which type works for you, without motivation, there is no reason for us to do anything.

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Reproduction

In the context of social learning, “reproduction” is not propagation of the learning, but the implementation of it.

Reproducing learned information is the last stage of social learning. Once you pay attention to your surroundings and retain what you learned in the setting, you are then motivated to reproduce your learning so you can get the reward.

Bandura suggests direct reinforcement, vicarious reinforcement and self-reinforcement as the different ways to reproduce knowledge gained through social learning.[2]

Direct Reinforcement

This is when you know act on knowledge knowing the result will be positive or avoid the act because the result would be unpleasant.

To repeat the medical students’ example here, direct reinforcement would be one of them practicing patient handling techniques learned from their role model, with the expectation that the result would be a satisfied patient.

Vicarious Reinforcement

Vicarious reinforcement in social learning is the application of knowledge that has not been learned first-hand but is learned by observing the consequences of the actions of a third party.

A good example of this type of reinforcement would be learning not to take drugs after seeing the condition of a drug addict.

Self Reinforcement

Self-reinforcement is when a person decides to reward him / herself for good behavior, or bring about a negative consequence as a result of an undesired situation.

Think of a student who has promised herself a scoop of ice cream if she got an A in an exam she studied hard for, or decided to ask for extra coaching if she got anything below a C.

Bottom Line

Albert Bandura presented the social learning theory in the 1970s and it immediately gained popularity because of its simplicity, practicality and immense potential for success. While the theory never went out of fashion, it is now experiencing a resurgence for all the right reasons.

If you want to become a smarter learner, take advantage of the social learning theory to learn faster!

More About Effective Learning

Featured photo credit: Edvin Johansson via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Psychology Today: Social Learning Theory
[2] SimplyPsychology: Bandura – Social Learning Theory

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Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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Last Updated on January 21, 2020

5 Proven Memorization Techniques to Make the Most of Your Memory

5 Proven Memorization Techniques to Make the Most of Your Memory

Do you forget stuff every now and then? Are you trying to enhance your memory but not sure how?

All you need is the right memorization techniques to make the most of your memory.

The human brain is fascinating. More specifically, the vast interconnections within our mind. Mendel Kaelen compares the human brain to a hill covered in snow,

“Think of the brain as a hill covered in snow, and thoughts as sleds gliding down that hill. As one sled after another goes down the hill a small number of main trails will appear in the snow. And every time a new sled goes down, it will be drawn into preexisting trails, almost like a magnet. In time it becomes more and more difficulty to glide down the hill on any other path or in a different direction.”

The intent of Kaelen’s discussion is to think of new ways to temporarily flatten the snow. Kaelen remarked,

“The deeply worn trails disappear, and suddenly the sled can go in other directions, exploring new landscapes and, literally, creating new pathways.”

The idea here is to temporarily rewire your brain, or as Michael Pollan remarked in How to Change Your Mind,

“The power to shake the snow globe, disrupting unhealthy patterns of thought and creating a space of flexibility-entropy-in which more salubrious patterns and narratives have an opportunity to coalesce as the snow slowly settles.”

So, how can we rewire our brain allowing deeply worn connections to disappear and new connections to form? The answer is quite simple. We must change the way we store information in our mind.

    Let’s examine 5 specific memorization techniques that will change the way you think and remember information.

    1. Build a Memory Palace

      What is it?

      The method of loci[1] (aka memory palace) is a method of memory enhancement using visualizations with the use of spatial memory. It uses familiar information about your environment to quickly recall information. It is a method that was discussed by Cicero in an ancient dialogue called De Oratore.

      How to use it?

      Ron White discusses in How to Memorize Fast and Easily: Build a Memory Palace, that it’s essentially a room or building that you have memorized and you use locations in the room to store data. Ron informs us,

      “You memorize locations in a room and then you later go back to those locations to retrieve the data that you want to remember.”

      Example

      An easy 5-step example, in the form of a Wiki, can be found at Artofmemory.com. Let’s examine the the steps:

      • Step 1. Choose a place that you know well. For example, your house or office.
      • Step 2. Plan the route and pick specific locations in your route. For example, your front door, bathroom kitchen, etc.
      • Step 3. Decide what you want to memorize. For example, geography, list of items, answers for a test, etc.
      • Step 4. Place one or two items, with a mental image, and place them in your memory palace. Exaggerate your images. For example, use nudity or crazy images forcing it to stick in your mind.
      • Step 5. Make the image into a mnemonic.

      You can learn more about this technique here: How to Build a Memory Palace to Remember More of Everything

      2. Mnemonic

        What is it?

        A mnemonic is a memory device that aids in retention and/or retrieval of information. Mnemonic systems are techniques consciously used to improve memory by helping us use information already stored in long-term memory to make memorization easier.[2]

        How to use it?

        Mnemonics make use of retrieval cues to encode information in our brain allowing for efficient storage and retrieval of the information. The trick is to learn how to easily create mnemonics. If you find that you struggle with creating your own, try the following website: Mnemonic Generator.

        Example

        I recently came across a video using mnemonics to memorize countries. Memorizing Countries using Mnemonics is a video created as an introduction to a class for using memory techniques to learn the names of countries on maps.

        I actively search for videos that provide enormous educational value, yet receive very little exposure. At the time of this writing, this video has received less than 4k views. Let’s examine the video.

        Goal: Create a mnemonic to memorize the countries in the Caribbean (just the countries you need to learn).

        Step 1. Looking at a map – write out each country (for which five were chosen).

        Cuba, Jamaica, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico.

        Step 2. Write the first letter of each country vertically.

        C

        J

        H

        D

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        P

        Step 3. Create a sentence or phrase.

        Cubs

        Just

        Hate

        Doing

        Push-ups

        Cubs just hate doing push-ups. (Cuba Jamaica Haiti Dominican Republic Puerto Rico)

        3. Mnemonic Peg System

          What is it?

          According to Artofmemory.com, a mnemonic peg system is a technique for memorizing lists and it works by memorizing a list of words that are easy to associate with the numbers they represent.[3] These objects are the pegs of the system.

          How to use it?

          The trick is to create a Number Rhyme System with each number having a rhyming mnemonic keyword.

          Example

          Let’s look at an example of a Number Rhyme System:[4]

          0 = hero

          1 = gun

          2 = shoe

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          3 = tree

          4 = door

          5 = hive

          6 = sticks

          7 = heaven

          8 = gate

          9 = line

          Another technique like the Peg system is the Number Shape System.[5] Here you are assigning mnemonic images based on the shape of the number. Watch the following video for an example of this system: Number Shape System for Memorizing Numbers.

          4. Chunking

            What is it?

            Chunking is a way to remember large bits of information by chunking them into smaller pieces of information. We are more likely to then remember the information when we put the small pieces back together to see the entire picture.

            How to use it?

            In the video Chunking – A Learning Technique, we can see that there are several ways to chunk information.

            Example

            Let’s examine a simple example using a nine-digit number.

            Step 1. What is the number you are trying to remember?

            081127882

            Step 2. Cut the number into smaller pieces through chunking.

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            081 – 127 – 882

            Let’s look at one more example from the same video.

            “Piano teachers will first demonstrate an entire song to students. They will then ask their students to practice one measure at a time. Once the part has been learned and the neural connections in the brain have been built, then students go on to the next measure. After all chunks have been played separately, they are combined until the entire piece is connected.”

            5. Transfer of Learning

              What is it?

              Transfer of learning is a way to learn something in one area and apply it in another. Authors of Thinking at Every Desk, Derek and Laura Cabrera inform us about the transfer of learning,

              “If a student has a high transfer skills, she can learn one thing and then teach herself 10, 50, or 100 additional things.”

              How to use it?

              There are two specific ways to use it:

              1. Vertical Transfer (aka Far Transfer). Think of learning something in grade school and applying it another grade or later in life.
              2. Horizontal Transfer (aka Near Transfer). Think of learning a concept in history and applying it in math.

              Example

              I provide a detailed step-by-step example for this technique in this article:

              Learn How to Learn: How to Understand and Connect Difficult Ideas Easily

              The Bottom Line

              The key to using the techniques discussed here is to remember that we must actively think about information.

              We cannot simply drill information into our brain through rote memorization. We must change the way we think about memorization. We must find a way to “shake the snow-globe” in our mind or flatten the snow so that we can create new learning paths.

              Or as Derek and Laura Cabrera point out, we must insert “Thinking” into the equation,

              “Information X Thinking = Knowledge”

              More About Enhancing Memories

              Featured photo credit: Nong Vang via unsplash.com

              Reference

              [1] Remember Everything: Memory Palaces and the Method of Loci
              [2] The Learning Center Exchange: 9 Types of Mnemonics for Better Memory
              [3] Art of Memory: Mnemonic Peg System
              [4] Art of Memory: Number Rhyme System
              [5] Art of Memory: Number Shape System

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