Buried in my file of fodder for blogs I re-discovered a heads-up from the New York Times on 1/21/11 that giving yourself a quick quiz after studying something once works better than going over and over it. The test-triggered active retrieval promoted meaningful learning by half in terms of how much students remembered a week later.
If you know something, or if you have stored information about an event from the distant past, and never use that information, never think of it, your brain is functionally equivalent to that of an otherwise identical brain that does not “contain” that information.
– Cognitive neuroscientist Endel Tulving quoted in this publication in Current Directions in Psychological Science of research on active retrieval by Jeffrey D. Karpicke of Purdue University
Coincidentally I just read this passage in “Brenner and God” by Wolf Haas, three time winner of the German Thriller Prize, which struck a chord about how the mind works in mysterious ways: “…just like a light that’s too bright can be bad for the eyes, so, too, can a mind that’s too awake be not at all good for thoughts…a half-asleep person can always outmatch an awake person by a long shot, no discussion.”
This happens with me when I am really wrapped up in a writing project or dealing with a very tough problem. Then I cannot sleep well as thoughts keep winding through my head. Often as I am nearly into a dream an answer comes to me. Then the only thing is to get up and write it down in the hopes that next morning it still makes sense. In any case, if I do not make a note, I then cannot sleep for fear of forgetting it. But surprisingly these ideas do usually hold up to the light of day, albeit not always terribly brilliant.
Does this happen to you too?