Last week, we learned that a way of dealing with today’s information overflow is going on an information diet: take less information in and make sure it is “healthy” (well researched and able to challenge your own beliefs), limit distractions, take breaks at regular intervals, and so on. But what else can we do to make the “healthy” bits of information stick?
Alain de Botton comes up with an interesting perspective: We can learn something from religion. In his TED Talk, he explains his concept of atheism 2.0. Amongst many other things, he mentions that religion has developed good ways of teaching people things, and that we could adopt these ways, no matter if we are members of a certain religion or atheists.
Alain de Botton points out that it is not enough to tell people something once and think they will remember it for the rest of their lives. Religions make their members repeat things – ten, fifteen, twenty times a day. Religions also arrange time in a way that you have time to consider certain ideas. Furthermore, they set rituals. These rituals in combination with the set times help devote oneself to an idea and maintain it in the heart.
Finally, when teaching something orally, speaking is considered important by religions. Bringing something across in a convincing way is essential for learning. A last point he takes into consideration is that we are not just brains, we are also bodies. Religions teach us lessons via the bodies by backing up philosophical ideas with physical actions.
These ideas make a lot of sense against the backdrop of current research on learning. For neural circuits in our brain to be established and enhanced, it is necessary to repeat what has to be learned over and over again. The more senses we involve, the better. Finally, our own experience in our everyday lives certainly shows that if we really want to learn something (be it a foreign language, playing the piano, or some new statistics software), we need to set a certain time for it, otherwise it will simply be caught up in the whirlwind of our everyday duties.