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記憶專家教你如何“超級學習”

How to supercharge the way you learn
記憶專家教你如何“超級學習”

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.”

與世界頂尖記憶專家面對面時,我開始變得非常謙卑。例如,本·沃特利(Ben Whately)給我講了著名的記憶術專家馬迪奧·瑞希(Matteo Ricci)的故事,這位16世紀的神父是第一位參加中國科舉考試的西方人??婆e考試的過程極其痛苦,需要熟記大量的古典詩詞——這是一項窮盡畢生精力才能完成的任務。“只有1%的應試者能夠通過科舉考試,但瑞希用了10年就通過了,而他之前從沒說過任何中文。”

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.

心理學家能讓我們的記憶力發揮同樣令人震驚的威力嗎?這正是沃特利的目標。他已經與前記憶冠軍艾德·庫克(Ed Cooke)合作設計了一款名為Memrise的學習應用,并在其中融入了記憶術專家常用的一些技巧?,F在,他們還與倫敦大學學院的研究人員合作發起了一項比賽,希望找到最有效的方式來提升他們的技巧。在這項競賽中,來自世界各地的記憶專家都會通過實驗找到最簡便、最有效的方式來記憶新的信息。

新的技巧能否幫助我們減輕學習過程中的痛苦?

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.

我在現場觀看了第一輪的評判。這場比賽對我們的記憶模式展開了引人入勝的探索。無論你是為期末考試臨時抱佛腳的大學生,還是渴望多學一些法語以備旅行之用的游客,他們的深刻見解都可以減輕你學習過程中的痛苦。

The competition’s task is superficially simple, says Rosalind Potts at UCL. “We wanted to know if you had an hour to study a list of 80 words, what do you have to do in order to remember them a week later.” The task is made more difficult by the fact that those 80 words are all Lithuanian. The entrants had to test the strategy on participants and compare them to a group who were not using any particular technique.

倫敦大學學院的羅薩琳德·波茨(Rosalind Potts)表示,這場比賽的任務非常簡單:“我們想知道,如果你花1個小時來學習80個單詞。如何才能在一個星期后仍然記住它們。”由于這80個單詞都是立陶宛語,所以難度進一步加大。參賽者必須針對受測者測試自己的技巧,并與沒有使用任何技巧的一組受測者進行比較。

Despite the fact that world-leading scientists entered the competition, some approaches failed to lead to any improvement in memory recall. “It shows how difficult it is to translate scientific principles into real-life learning,” says David Shanks, also of UCL.

盡管吸引了世界領先的科學家參與比賽,但有些方法卻未能對記憶起到任何改善作用。“這表明,要將科學原理應用到實際學習中是多么困難。”倫敦大學學院的大衛·尚克思(David Shanks)說。

Boredom, for instance, proved to be a hurdle: one team found a subject falling asleep during the hour-long word-memorising session – despite the fact they were being paid with cakes to take part in the study. “It happens,” says Yana Weinstein at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, who is also on the judging panel.

例如,事實證明,無聊是落實這些技巧的一大障礙:一個團隊發現,盡管組織方對受測者提供蛋糕以吸引他們參與測試,但還是有一位受測者在時長1小時的單詞記憶環節睡著了。“確實有這種事情。” 本次比賽的裁判組成員、馬薩諸塞大學盧維爾分校的亞納·韋恩斯坦(Yana Weinstein)說。

Notwithstanding those minor hiccups, many teams found some benefits – as much as doubling the amount their subjects recalled. Rather than focussing on one single technique, they tended to use combinations of the following strategies:

盡管出現了一些小的波折,但很多團隊還是取得了成效——受測者記住的單詞量最多翻了一番。他們并沒有單獨專注于一種技巧,而是將以下幾種技巧結合起來。

1) Embracing ignorance. Self-testing is one of the best ways to improve recall. For me, the most surprising, and potentially useful twist, on this technique was a strategy called “errorful generation”. Without any training, subjects were forced to guess the meaning of the Lithuanian words. “They will always be wrong the first time round,” says Shanks – yet psychological studies have shown that the initial mistakes subsequently make the words stick. “It’s remarkably better than if you had studied the word.”

1)擁抱無知。自我測試是改善記憶的最佳方式之一。最令我意外且很有可能起效的方式,就是所謂的“犯錯式完善”(errorful generation)。在沒有接受任何培訓的情況下,受測者被迫猜測這些立陶宛語單詞的意思。“他們第一次肯定會猜錯。”尚克思說,“但心理學研究表明,最初的錯誤反而會提升隨后的單詞記憶效果。”

Simply recognising your own ignorance, it seems, primes your mind into action – doubling the recall compared to a group who didn’t use the technique. This builds on the idea of “desirable difficulty” in psychology – by making a task a little bit harder, it can engage your attention and construct firmer foundations for later recall.

承認自己的無知,似乎就能促使你將思維變成行動——與對照組相比,使用這種技巧后的記憶效果提升了一倍。這種技巧的理論基礎在于:略微增加任務難度,便可吸引你的注意力,從而為之后的記憶打下更堅實的基礎。

2) Surfing the memory’s waves. You can easily waste time over-studying. So many of the entrants had designed algorithms that cleverly work out how strong your memory for each of the 80 words is, so they could rekindle it once you had started to forget. Memrise’s app has one version of this approach that you can use for now – and the entrants may suggest ways to further refine it. Alternatively, you can rely on your intuition to help time your learning – leaving longer and longer periods before you retest and learn from your mistakes.

2)踏準記憶的波浪。過度學習很容易浪費時間。有很多參賽者設計了各種算法,聰明地計算出這80個單詞在你記憶中的強度,這樣便可在你開始忘記這些單詞時重新強化記憶。你可以直接在Memrise應用中使用這種方法的一個變種——而參賽者或許可以通過各種方式繼續改進這種方法。另外,你也可以利用自己的直覺來規劃學習進度——逐步延長重新測試和復習錯誤的時間間隔。

One entrant also experimented with giving short breaks to the participants during the word memorising task – allowing them to watch a video of a waterfall – potentially allowing the information to sink in. When you’re studying, it’s certainly worth taking short breaks to ensure that fatigue doesn’t overcome your natural abilities.

一位參賽者還試圖在單詞記憶任務中讓受測者短暫休息——讓他們觀看了一段瀑布視頻——目的可能是為了讓信息沉淀下來。在你學習的過程中時,的確應當短暫休息一下,避免因為疲勞而降低學習效果。

3) Buffet studying.  It might seem tempting to chunk the material into themes and learn them one by one – so some of the entrants organised the words into categories and themes. But one team found that simply cycling through all 80 words was effective. Whately points out that memory champions memorising a pack of cards take a similar approach – rotating quickly through the whole pack rather than learning it block by block.

3)自助餐式的學習。將學習材料按照主題歸類,然后逐一消化吸收,似乎是一種非常有吸引力的方式。所以,一些參賽者將單詞分成了不同的類別和主題。但有一個團隊發現,單純在這80個單詞中循環也很有效。沃特利指出,記憶冠軍在記憶一組卡片時也采用了類似的方式——在所有卡片中循環往復,而沒有分門別類。

If that sounds confusing, research does at least suggest that you should add variety to a study session. It’s better to spend small blocks of time on a variety of subjects and skills – rather than concentrating on a single topic. Think of it as taking from a buffet, rather than eating a set dinner.

這聽起來似乎令人困惑,但至少有研究表明,你的確應當在學習過程中增加多樣性。最好能把時間分割開來從事不同的主題和技巧,而不是集中于同一個主題。應該把這想象成吃自助餐,而不是吃套餐。

4) Story-telling. Any form of “elaboration” can help reactivate those synapses and seal the memory. One entrant asked the participants to build a story with the words they were learning, for instance. Cooke and Whately were also excited to see one team implement a “memory palace” – in which you try to link the words to objects in a room.

4)講故事。任何形式的“細化”都有助于重新激活神經元突觸并強化記憶。例如,一位參賽者讓受測者用這些正在學習的單詞編了一個故事。庫克和沃特利很高興看到一個團隊制作了“記憶宮殿”——在那里面,你可以嘗試著將單詞與房間里的物體聯系起來。

The program they designed might show a picture of a living room and give you the Lithuanian word “lova” – bed. You could then imagine your lover laying on a sofa bed. Once you have mapped out your learning in this way, you should be able to retrace your steps and recall the word with ease.

他們設計的這個程序可能會展示一張客廳的圖片,然后給你一個立陶宛單詞“Lova”——床。你之后可以想象自己的愛人(lover)躺在沙發床上。一旦你通過這種方式展開學習,便能毫不費力地重復這些步驟,從而回憶起相應的單詞。

This was, in fact, the technique that allowed the Jesuit priest Matteo Ricci to learn Chinese to such an advanced level – and it also lies behind Cooke’s ability to remember 2265 binary digits in less than 30 minutes. The team’s computer program may simplify the process by making it more automatic.  “If this does turn out to be the winner – that’s a serious discovery,” says Cooke.

事實上,馬迪奧·瑞希牧師正是通過這種技巧掌握了如此高深的中文——庫克之所以能在不到30分鐘的時間內記住2265個二進制數字,也是采用了相同的方法。該團隊的電腦程序可以通過更加自動化的方式簡化這一流程。“如果這最終勝出——那就會成為一項重要發現。”庫克說。

Learning game

學習游戲


The judges hope to run the competition every year as they further refine the art of memory. In the future, there may be many more inventive approaches to consider. Shanks, for instance, points to one project that failed to enter this year, but may still be a promising strategy for the future. “They were building a video game where you shoot the spaceships out of sky, and completely incidentally, the spaceships have Lithuanian and English words on them,” he says. “I thought it was a brilliant idea.”

裁判組希望每年都能舉行一次這樣的比賽,以便進一步改善記憶術。今后可能還會有很多別出心裁的方法值得借鑒。例如,尚克思指出,今年有一個項目未能入圍,但今后或許仍有可能成為一種頗具前景的技術。“他們開發了一款視頻游戲,讓你對著天空中的飛船射擊,這些飛船會隨機附帶立陶宛語和英語單詞。”他說,“我認為這是個了不起的想法。”

The real challenge for these memory experts, however, isn’t just to make learning quick and effective. As every student knows – the biggest obstacle to learning is distraction, whether it’s the idea of sunbathing in the park or switching on the TV. We may need many more competitions before we can overcome that hurdle.

然而,對于這些記憶專家來說,真正的挑戰并不僅僅是快速而有效地學習信息。每一個學生都知道,走神是學習過程中的最大障礙,無論是想去公園里曬日光浴,還是想要打開電視機,都會分散人們的注意力。我們或許需要開展更多的競賽才能真正克服這一障礙。
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