Scientists have found a way to help you learn new skills twice as fast

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Cao Nguyen

Scientists have found a way to help you learn new skills twice as fast

Post by Cao Nguyen » Mon Feb 08, 2016 2:42 am

The key to learning a new motor skill - such as playing the piano or mastering a new sport - isn't necessarily how many hours you spend practising, but the way you practise, according to new research. Scientists have found that by subtly varying your training, you can keep your brain more active throughout the learning process, and halve the time it takes to get up to scratch.

The research goes somewhat against the old assumption that simply repeating a motor skill over and over again - for example, practising scales on the piano or playing the same level on your game over and over again - was the best way to master it. Instead, it turns out there might be a quicker (and more enjoyable) way to level up.

"What we found is if you practise a slightly modified version of a task you want to master, you actually learn more and faster than if you just keep practising the exact same thing multiple times in a row," said lead researcher Pablo Celnik, from Johns Hopkins University.
http://www.sciencealert.com/scientists- ... ce-as-fast

Gurdyman

Re: Scientists have found a way to help you learn new skills twice as fast

Post by Gurdyman » Mon Feb 08, 2016 2:52 am

Many years ago my friends and I found out that you can learn more quickly to play a piece of music if you also try to learn other pieces in the same practice session. I thought everybody knew this.

montana
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Re: Scientists have found a way to help you learn new skills twice as fast

Post by montana » Mon Feb 08, 2016 6:01 am

Nope! Did not know that .

malc laney
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Re: Scientists have found a way to help you learn new skills twice as fast

Post by malc laney » Mon Feb 08, 2016 10:12 am

pablo celnik is obviously our new leader ! how much did his insight into the obvious cost?

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petermc61
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Re: Scientists have found a way to help you learn new skills twice as fast

Post by petermc61 » Mon Feb 08, 2016 11:25 am

Thanks for posting that. I found the article interesting and thought provoking.

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Blondie
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Re: Scientists have found a way to help you learn new skills twice as fast

Post by Blondie » Mon Feb 08, 2016 12:00 pm

Gurdyman wrote:Many years ago my friends and I found out that you can learn more quickly to play a piece of music if you also try to learn other pieces in the same practice session. I thought everybody knew this.
But that's not what this research demonstrates. This is about the benefits of varying the motor task between practice sessions, not within the same session.

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Re: Scientists have found a way to help you learn new skills twice as fast

Post by Paul Berge » Mon Feb 08, 2016 2:28 pm

Based on the below paragraph, I don't think learning 2 different pieces of music would meet the criteria for a subtle change. It seems to me like playing the same piece on 2 different guitars with slightly different action or string tension would be a better equivalent.
Celnik says the alterations in training have to be small, something akin to slightly adjusting the size or weight of a baseball bat, tennis racket or soccer ball in between practice sessions. Current studies by Celnik’s team, still underway and not yet published, suggest that changing a practice session too much, like playing badminton in between tennis bouts, brings no significant benefit to motor learning.

“If you make the altered task too different, people do not get the gain we observed during reconsolidation,” he says. “The modification between sessions needs to be subtle.”

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Blondie
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Re: Scientists have found a way to help you learn new skills twice as fast

Post by Blondie » Mon Feb 08, 2016 4:10 pm

Paul Berge wrote:Based on the below paragraph, I don't think learning 2 different pieces of music would meet the criteria for a subtle change. It seems to me like playing the same piece on 2 different guitars with slightly different action or string tension would be a better equivalent.
Yes I think that's a reasonable interpretation and extrapolation - better still, it gives an excellent reason for having a variety of guitars :D

Following this theory, I wonder to what extent a subtle change of position between practice sessions might also be beneficial?
That would cast an interesting light on the somewhat obsessive search for the perfect 'golden' position that guitarists can be guilty off.

Cao Nguyen

Re: Scientists have found a way to help you learn new skills twice as fast

Post by Cao Nguyen » Mon Feb 08, 2016 4:22 pm

I think the change can be more subtle than that: dynamics and timbre.

Pat Dodson
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Re: Scientists have found a way to help you learn new skills twice as fast

Post by Pat Dodson » Mon Feb 08, 2016 4:29 pm

Professor Celnik's work with the rehabilitation of stroke patients is clearly very worthy and important. I'd be surprised if therapists working with stroke patients were not already building some variety into their work with patients but I guess it doesn't hurt for the occasional scientific result to validate intuitive and experienced professional practice.

Professor Celnik's work here has simply looked in micro at one small example of issues of transfer of learning, consolidation and reconsolidation that have been known about and studied by behavioural scientists for more than 100 years. Fine for him to make recommendations, based upon his study, to his therapist colleagues though I imagine they'll be underwhelmed.

What is ridiculous is for the researchers and media to extrapolate from this small isometric pinch control exercise to complex behaviour such as learning a musical instrument. Stand by for next month's report from Professor Cello at John O'Groats University which will reveal that 4 year olds taught a single rhythm on the e string using only rest strokes performed less well on a subsequent task than peers who were made to work on all strings with varied rhythms using both free and rest strokes.

Professor Cello believes his study will make it possible for guitar tutors to foster the next Julian Bream by the time the pupil is 8. Further he suggests it could also reduce the time needed for the study of other complex skills such as open heart surgery where he believes doctors taught to pick up small objects of varying, rather than identical size, using eyebrow tweezers could lead a medical team in theatre within two years of starting their medical studies.

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Re: Scientists have found a way to help you learn new skills twice as fast

Post by Lovemyguitar » Mon Feb 08, 2016 5:26 pm

Pat Dodson wrote:...What is ridiculous is for the researchers and media to extrapolate from this small isometric pinch control exercise to complex behaviour such as learning a musical instrument...
There you go, being rational and logical again! I have occasionally tried that on this forum, but such observations generally fall upon deaf ears, as it were. In fact, I suspect that most people never read anything other than the first post (or the subject line) before adding their two-cents/pence worth, and so I seldom bother trying to be a voice of reason, because nobody listens, anyway. Cheers!

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Moje
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Re: Scientists have found a way to help you learn new skills twice as fast

Post by Moje » Tue Feb 09, 2016 2:28 am

Yeah, what we have here is a case of lousy science reporting. "The key to learning a new motor skill - such as playing the piano or mastering a new sport" isn't addressed at all in the study, never mind settled.

It's a simple study regarding a simple skill, there's no reason to think the results would apply continuously to complex skills that require fine motor control developed over years. The idea that this study alone halves the time and effort required to learn complex tasks is extravagant, and no effort has been made to substantiate the claim. This isn't science, it's clickbait.

Anyway I'm sure all that's going on is that the variation in the second practice session keeps the subject engaged, and the extra focus explains the improved result. Add very specialized fine motor control to the equation and the law of diminishing returns will set in very quickly, I expect.
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mc1

Re: Scientists have found a way to help you learn new skills twice as fast

Post by mc1 » Tue Feb 09, 2016 3:23 am

i tried this method and it took me twice as long...

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Re: Scientists have found a way to help you learn new skills twice as fast

Post by dory » Tue Feb 09, 2016 7:09 am

I cannot provide a reference for what I am about to say, which makes me feel like they should take my PhD away for posting this. However, I recently heard a radio interview with an educational researcher who claims that we learn faster if we alternate tasks within one lesson or learning session. He was referring to classes at school rather than practice sessions, and developing skills other than muscle memory. However, the same might apply. I have experimented a bit with what I think I remember of what he said-- for example breaking up intense practice on a particular piece to play scales for a bit and then going back to the original task, or alternating practicing two or more pieces rather than spending an hour or so playing one piece only. I am not sure I have seen miracles when I do this, but then I have an obsessive style of concentration and have trouble remembering to vary tasks.
Dory

Cao Nguyen

Re: Scientists have found a way to help you learn new skills twice as fast

Post by Cao Nguyen » Tue Feb 09, 2016 8:01 am

dory wrote:I cannot provide a reference for what I am about to say, which makes me feel like they should take my PhD away for posting this. However, I recently heard a radio interview with an educational researcher who claims that we learn faster if we alternate tasks within one lesson or learning session. He was referring to classes at school rather than practice sessions, and developing skills other than muscle memory. However, the same might apply. I have experimented a bit with what I think I remember of what he said-- for example breaking up intense practice on a particular piece to play scales for a bit and then going back to the original task, or alternating practicing two or more pieces rather than spending an hour or so playing one piece only. I am not sure I have seen miracles when I do this, but then I have an obsessive style of concentration and have trouble remembering to vary tasks.
IMO varying is good, even when we practice the same thing (scales, anyone?). When we do something over and over we become more familiar with it so our mind tends to lose some focus. Varying makes our mind notice the changes and compare them to what have been stored in the memory, which is an unconscious way of recalling it. Hence, reconsolidation. I mix pure repetition and varying in the same practice session.

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