Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Let's Learn

Driving into town yesterday, I listened to a story on NPR that I found exciting. Researchers are waking up to the fact that IQ is not a fixed quantity determined by genetics, but instead something that seems to vary with activity and environment. They still seem not to recognize that IQ is simply a side effect of activity, but they're getting closer.

In this story, a researcher named John Hewitt spoke about the rates of learning in children, adolescents and adults. Learning rates tend to decline as we get older.  What he'd discovered was that there was a strong correlation between high IQ and children whose rate of learning declined less rapidly than the norm, people who continued to learn as a child would even in adolescence.

Of course the causal chain was interpreted backwardly (i.e., the IQ causing the extended period versus the extended period causing IQ), but still, it was pretty cool to see researchers starting to get it.

Another researcher used language acquisition as an example of how children learn faster than adults. No news there. However an interesting point that she brought out was that the primary difference between adults and children is not in the acquisition of vocabulary, but instead, in the intuiting of syntax. Adults can learn new words pretty quickly, but they tend not to abstract the rules of syntax from what they hear. Children do both.

This made sense to me and helped me to better understand something I've been considering lately.

As far as I can tell my rate of learning is still increasing. I'm definitely learning more quickly now than a year a go or a decade ago. I've come to think about learning and IQ much like one would think about working out and strength. The more I learn, the faster I learn.

What resonated for me was the abstraction of syntax. The things I love most about learning, the things about which I'm most curious are those that require me to discover and discern the rules that are inherent to any system. Even if they've never been stated, I've found that they always exist and that, by observing a system, you can figure out the rules that govern it.

It would seem that this kind of activity is akin to circuit training for the brain.

Later in the day, I read a post on Facebook that I found wonderfully affirming. Here goes...
"In times of change, learners inherit the earth while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists."
Eric Hoffer

Happy Tuesday,

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