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How We Learn

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  4,832 ratings  ·  612 reviews

This book will help you to learn Spanish - or the Spanish guitar - faster.

This book will give an athlete the edge to turn Silver into Gold.

This book will give any child the chance to perform better in exams. Full stop.

How We Learn is a landmark book that shakes up everything we thought we knew about how the brain absorbs and retains information. Filled with powerful - and

Kindle Edition, 272 pages
Published September 1st 2014 by Macmillan
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Average rating 3.92  · 
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Aug 22, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science, education
According to Benedict Carey, a science reporter, the way we THINK we learn is actually very different from the way we ACTUALLY learn. About 95% of Carey’s book is a historical chronology of the clinical studies and science experiments that led to our current understanding of learning. The remaining 5% contains the useful points and strategies you need to be a better learner. Since I’m guessing almost all of us care very much about the useful 5% and very little of the historical 95%, I’ve boiled ...more
Riku Sayuj

Why So Serious

We all “know” we need to be organized, to develop good, consistent study routines, to find a quiet place and avoid distractions, to focus on one skill at a time, and above all, to concentrate on our work.

What’s to question about that?

Carey begins this book with the allegation that most of our instincts about learning are misplaced, incomplete, or flat wrong.

It goes like this:

Want to procrastinate? Good!
Can’t focus? Good!
No fixed schedule? Good!
Can’t study in a fixed place? Good!
Jay Williams
Aug 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Probably the most informative book I have read in years. I was amazed at the information it contains, and how it was written for ready comprehension. It stands the traditional ideas on learning on end, and provides a solid basis for the knowledge it provides. I especially liked the appendix which summarized the information from the entire book into practical guidelines for use. I will make sure many members of my family get a copy of this book. It is valuable for all ages.
Another excellent book on learning science--

The book covers much of the same ground as Make It Stick: the Science of Successful Learning—desirable difficulty, the necessity of forgetting in learning, testing as a learning technique, illusion of knowing, and spaced & varied practice—but the emphasis is more on the practical side of learning and offers some concepts, studies, and insights not found in Make It Stick.

Some of the things I took away from this book and will be applying to my own
Michael Nielsen
Mar 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An informative overview of research on memory, covering:

+ The enormous benefits of spaced repetition.
+ The benefits of being repeatedly tested (which sometimes greatly outweigh re-studying, even when you're not told the results)
+ The benefits of interleaving different types of material, and the remarkable fact that people believe they're learning less, but are actually learning much more.
+ The fluency illusion, i.e., the sense that people have that they're learning a lot when it's all going
Nov 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Audible version:
Firstly, this was a struggle at times, probably through the frustration of my own powers of learning/recall. If you’re going to use this book for personal/self-improvement, or you want to use its lessons in your own classroom, then an audible version is immensely confounding – as I wanted to make notes and highlights continuously, and walking to and from work whilst listening didn’t allow me to easily do this! I also hated the attempts of the narrator to mimic the Irish accent or
I could go 3.5 stars easily, but not four as much of the book was review, not surprising (although my parents never, ever suggested when, where or how I should study!) I wanted to retitle the first half of this book "How We Memorize" as Carey dealt, in an engaging way, with studies on how we retain factual information. This is not the heart of my interest in deep learning -- and I think the topic is covered better and with better, useful techniques for memorization, in Moonwalking with Einstein. ...more
I'd definitely recommend this to someone who hasn't yet ventured into the "learning how to learn" territory, but as someone who has taken multiple courses on this topic, I barely found any new information. Though the writing style's great - simple, fun and accessible.
Leland Beaumont
Aug 22, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As soon as we shift focus from teaching to learning, understanding how our brains acquire information becomes paramount. The easy going, storytelling style of this book belies its depth and importance; this is a book about how brain cells form, hold onto, and retrieve new information.

How we do learn often differs from how we may have been taught to learn. Schoolmarms would be very surprised to find out what actually works. Here are some of the unusual conclusions developed in the book:

3.5--I wish my peers would read this and understand techniques that help children learn. Because I follow this kind of research quite a bit, there wasn't much here that I did not already know but I did appreciate Carey taking the time to explain the research behind the theories. This would be a great common book for college freshmen.
Jan 16, 2015 rated it really liked it
Review of learning studies.
Take aways:
1. Forgetting then retrieval makes the memory

2. Recreate same state of mind/study environment -shake it up so that can redo in a variety of circumstances

3. Space out learn over time to remember more

4. “fluency illusion” easy to remember now and also later; to overcome consistently engage in self-testing as you go (ie. recite from memory as part of studying)

5. Pre-testing as study tool - even a wrong guess engages the mind in a more demanding way than
Jan 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobooks
This is a rare book that, having listened to it, I want to buy as a hard copy to review.

There are a lot of ideas in here about ideal learning conditions, the research that backs them up, and the ways to make the most of one's brain. Fascinating and useful. I wish I'd listened to it before I took my boards exam. There were things I might have structured differently in my study plan.

I especially would like to have this on hand in the event that I'm involved in course design at some point. I think
Sep 11, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
We don’t learn the way we think we do. Things that are seen as detrimental like distractions, randomness, naps, boredom, different settings are actually what can help us the most. Learning or training our brains whether it’s in the storage or the retrieval aspects is just like our exercise routines the more varied , sporadic, intermittent the better. Agility and flexibility are extremely valuable for strengthening .

The author highlights tips we might already know like the importance of self
Jan 17, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: all of my teacher friends
Recommended to Jennifer by: MindShift
I’ve been reading a lot of books about the science of learning lately. It started a couple of years ago when I began using an article by Carol Dweck in my developmental reading/writing course—an article about fixed and growth mindset and about how such a small thing like what you believe about your own intelligence or ability can have a huge impact. My students both related to it as learners but sometimes as parents too. Since then, I have seen/read discussions of mindset everywhere and one ...more
Karen Chung
May 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you care about teaching or learning, do not deprive yourself of crucial information on how to do it better - hurry and read this book NOW!
Feb 03, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Carey's "How We Learn" challenges our traditional views of learning by discussing the experimental results from the science of learning. The book is thus very similar to "Make It Stick" by Brown et al. In my opinion, Carey's book is more readable but not quite as useful and informative as "Make It Stick."

Our traditional views about memorization, studying, and learning tend to focus on making learning easy: study in the same location, develop a study ritual, reduce distractions, then read, take
Apr 27, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well...I spent 8 years teaching students useless study habits. Informative and eye opening, but I would have liked bulleted suggestions for improving learning at the end of each chapter. ...more
Dimitrios Mistriotis
Dec 07, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: avoid
Easily one of the books that do not worth the paper + ink it has been printed on. An impulse buy. I need to upskill my learning so got this to get some insights. The format of each chapter is Story - Research - Finding, there is no way to connect the stories, research material presented is sparse and does not connect. Findings that you can apply to how you work and learn stuff were at most one paragraph per chapter. Thinking that the book advertises it self as a how-to "unlock our brains ...more
Peter (Pete) Mcloughlin
Some good news about our bad habits of procrastination, distraction, sleep, and learning. All these items long considered enemies to accomplishment in academia and life may be well-disguised friends due to the quirky ways our mind actually learns. Argues a more laid-back approach may be more efficient in the end which is music to my ears probably most people as well so there is a bit of too good to be true in the story. not bad.
Nov 06, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Ironically, the way I learn is simply not the way he writes. He has a chatty style, about the density of spongecake for the amount of space between information, and after three attempts, I realize I don't have the patience to wait for him to get to the point. So I can't claim that I actually know whether he does have a point.
Jan 16, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Such a helpful and insightful book. The findings presented in this book are really interesting and they really break the misplaced assumptions about studying and learning. Very helpful !!!
Mar 21, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book started Chapter One with a fascinating question: why do people with brains split completely in half (surgery for severe epilepsy) still feel like one unified person?

The answer: somewhere in the left hemisphere, there is a system in our brains that researcher Michael Gazzaniga calls the "left brain interpreter". The interpreter what what puts together the story of our lives. Oh, and 'story' is truly the right word; the interpreter will make up bullshit to explain what it does not know!
Roman Kozakov
Nov 03, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book provides an insightful explanation of the principle processes that enable us to learn. The text describes everything for each process from its initial discovery to recent studies that qualitatively and quantitatively express the impact of that process in enabling learning. Each chapter describes an underlying learning process that many may take for granted. However, Benedict does a great job in diving into each of these processes and unveiling each by providing an in-depth analysis ...more
May 27, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: research, non-fiction
As the sub-title mentions, the ideas preferred in the book is in fact surprising and goes against the conventional wisdom in learning that we have grown up with. Turning too many ideas on its head, through a mixture of cognitive research, social science experiments and philosophical detours Mr Carey presents a cogent and quite persuasive picture of how we can adapt ourselves to learn consistently and most efficiently while keeping our eyes and ears open for that cherished moments of creative ...more
Aug 15, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

4.5 Stars

To be honest, I've been looking for a book like this for a while. Not too long ago, I started reading “Thinking Fast and Slow”, but it couldn’t hold my attention long enough for me to finish it. I’ll admit, there were spots in this book that were a bit dry, but overall it was packed full of knowledge that was truly interesting. For instance, I really like how the author included a few brain teasers, as well as some truly bizarre brain experiments (splitting
Biblio Files (takingadayoff)
How We Learn is almost a how-to book about what to do to learn better and faster. It turns out we're doing it all wrong.

Benedict Carey is a science reporter, and so he has experience taking complex or incomplete scientific concepts and making them crystal clear to the general public. Since we really still don't know much about how the brain works, that is, how it forms memories and recalls facts for instance, we're stuck with trial and error for the time being. Carey points to many interesting,
Jonathan Biddle
Excellent book that surveys the research over the last few centuries on how we learn and retain what we learn. The best part is that the information is actionable, whether you're just trying to expand the horizons of what you know or whether you are in academia.

"This much is clear: The mixing of items, skills, or concepts during practice, over the longer term, seems to help us not only see the distinctions between them but also to achieve a clearer grasp of each one individually. The hardest
Jan 16, 2015 rated it it was ok
This is a kind of a gloss of some research on learning and memory and kind of what seems to be the author's desire to reinforce some of his own learning and memory beliefs and behaviors. There are very brief footnotes, very limited current research sources, and I wasn't convinced of his conclusions. It's a very easy read if you don't want to get too deeply into the topic. Carey has degrees in math and journalism, not in science, and I think that lack of background shows itself in this book. For ...more
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
I had high hopes for this book. I’m terribly interested in how we learn, so it was the “how we learn” along with “the surprising truth” that intrigued me. Here’s the real truth: How We Learn covers “how we learn” moderately well, at least as well as my educational psychology class from 1976. But, sadly, I didn’t run across any surprises here. And, if you wish, we can attribute that to my keeping up with current learning theories rather well instead of failures of the book.
Kirsti Call
Jul 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

What I liked: Benedict Carey does a fantastic job of gathering the data and presenting the results. I learned practical ways that will help me help my children learn as we embark on a homeschooling adventure this fall. The book is readable, interesting, and well written. After reading this I feel like I have concrete real life ways to enhance our learning! Yay!

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Goodreads Librari...: Please add book cover - How We Learn 2 16 Aug 09, 2015 07:39PM  

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Benedict Carey was a health and medical reporter for the Los Angeles Times starting in 1997. In 2004 he became a science reporter for the New York Times.
“The “losers” in memory competitions, this research suggests, stumble not because they remember too little. They have studied tens, perhaps hundreds of thousands of words, and often they are familiar with the word they ultimately misspell. In many cases, they stumble because they remember too much. If recollecting is just that—a re-collection of perceptions, facts, and ideas scattered in intertwining neural networks in the dark storm of the brain—then forgetting acts to block the background noise, the static, so that the right signals stand out. The sharpness of the one depends on the strength of the other.” 2 likes
“Napping is sleep, too. In a series of experiments over the past decade, Sara Mednick of the University of California, San Diego, has found that naps of an hour to an hour and half often contain slow-wave deep sleep and REM. People who study in the morning—whether it’s words or pattern recognition games, straight retention or comprehension of deeper structure—do about 30 percent better on an evening test if they’ve had an hour-long nap than if they haven’t. “It’s changed the way I work, doing these studies,” Mednick told me. “It’s changed the way I live. With naps of an hour to an hour and half, we’ve found in some experiments that you get close to the same benefits in learning consolidation that you would from a full eighthour night’s sleep.” 2 likes
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