How to learn with zero effort

Via David Robson

What is the easiest way to learn? David Robson meets a group of scientists and memory champions competing to find techniques that make facts stick… fast.

Face to face with the world’s leading memory experts, my mind is beginning to feel very humble. Ben Whately, for instance, tells me about the famous mnemonist Matteo Ricci, a 16th Century Jesuit priest who was the first westerner to take China’s highest civil service exams. The exam was an excruciating ordeal that involved memorising reams of classical poetry – a task that could take a lifetime. “Only 1% of people who took them passed them, yet Ricci passed them after 10 years, having not spoken any Chinese before.”






 Think of learning like a buffet, rather than a set dinner — One of the tips for rapid memorisation

Can psychology give us all the same astonishing command of our minds? That’s Whately’s aim. With former memory champion Ed Cooke,he’s already designed a learning app, Memrise, that uses some of the mnemonist’s principles, as BBC Future has described in the past. Now they’ve teamed up with researchers from University College London to launch a competition to find the best possible way to enhance their techniques. Memory experts from across the world were asked to conduct experiments to find the easiest, and most effective, way to memorise new information.

I’m here to observe the first round of judging. It offers a fascinating exploration of the way our memories work. Whether you are a university student cramming for your finals, or have simply yearned to pick up some tourist French, their insights could take the pain out of digesting facts. Read full article


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