Monday, September 27, 2021

Adult vs. Child Learning

Just because you are not a kid doesn’t mean that you can pick up new skills. Adults (and teens) can learn much faster than they believe if they understand how the brain learns new things

Why YSK: adults can learn things faster than what they believe, and learning new things and skills can be a very satisfying process on its own, but many people wished they had learned to play an instrument or some other skill but never do something about it because they feel that “it is too late”. It isn’t.

Okay, how do I do that?

There is this common misconception that just because you are older and the brain doesn’t “learn as fast”.

While this is true by some regards, kids don’t learn in the same way as adults do. Kids learn by imitating actions from their environment, they can do that because their brain has significantly more synapses(=connections between brain cells) than adults, so it’s easier for the brain to find the right pathway and reinforce it while pruning “wrong” synapses.

In contrast, adults have preexisting synapses that have been reinforced for a long time and so it’s significantly harder to learn by imitation.

But adults also have a significantly better world model (=understanding of the world), and significantly more developed frontal cortex (=rational thinking and control of functions and behaviour). This means that by employing pre existing knowledge and understanding you can attain a much better understanding of the skill you are trying to learn than kids. This, then means that you can explore and generate new “actions” and behaviour much better than kids because you have better understanding of what is going on under it. By doing that consciously you will be able to turn the actually “correct” and “high quality” conscious actions into subconscious actions that are second nature. 

Finally, even learning itself and creativity are skills that can be trained for (as a grad student with publications from undergrad, and a lot of original work, who has ventured into other fields in her own time because she found it interesting, I recommend the Feynman method with flashcards and extensive notes).

The brain is a very strong pattern matching and creative computer. It’s a shame that many people live with regrets of not learning to play instruments or some other skill. 

Some authors that I can recommend:

- Gina Rippon - The gendered brain (I read this today so I am adding it now)
- - Kahneman (eg. “Thinking fast and slow”)
- David Eagleman (eg. “Livewired”, ”the brain”)
- - Robert Sapolsky (eg “Behave”, “why zebras don’t get ulcers”)
- Elizier Yudkowsky (eg “Inadequate equilibria”)
- - Lieberman and Long (The molecule of more)
- Oliver Sacks (eg “The man who mistook his wife for a hat”, “Hallucinations”, “On the river of consciousness”)

Les Poules huppées

CRESTED HENS, THE (Les Poules huppées). French, Bourrée à 3 temps (3/8 time). E Dorian. Standard tuning (fiddle). Composed in 1983 by French...