Not long ago I was paying a visit to an English bookstore somewhere in Amsterdam. I wasn’t looking for anything specific, all I needed was a reading material to help me going through my daily trips to the office, as a time machine of some sort. I must also admit that I am not a eager reader, therefore I cannot measure how serious a review written by me can be taken (if any at all!). How We Learn could be briefly described as a collection of well-tested techniques that help us learn more effectively with less effort. Its author – Benedict Carey – approaches the basics of cognitive science in a down-top manner, starting with the human brain’s anatomy, and progressively walking towards concepts such as interleaving and perceptual learning. I was surprised, considering my former lack of interest in this particular scientific field, how quickly I got hooked up by its contents.
Although the sentence “throw out the rule book and unlock your brain’s potential” is definitely exaggerated for what it really accomplishes, having a scientific insight on how our memory behaves towards learning is meritorious not only for teachers or psychologists. The simplicity in which the book was written, together with a great amount of real life examples, makes it pleasurable even for those who have no previous knowledge in the field (or interest).
As a time machine the book worked just fine, keeping my attention away from the boredom of my daily morning trips, but beyond that, I learnt something new, and so will you if give it a try. I recommend it!