5 reasons learning and memory are not about intelligence

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.


Memory pieces.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Average people remember things that supposedly smart people forget.

Our educational system and a lot of parent’s efforts to help their children learn are misguided.

Somewhere along the line, we got the impression that to be a good learner you needed to be really smart and that if you scored low on an I.Q. test then you would never be able to learn.

That is just not so. Being smart helps, but it is not the whole story. There are things anyone can do to improve their memory and learning.

Here are some reasons why.

1. Learning is emotional, not intellectual.

If you truly enjoy something it is easy to learn a lot about that subject. If you don’t care about something it is next to impossible to remember. If you have ever had to take a class in school because it was required, but it was nothing you will ever care about after the class is over, you know what I mean.

Excitement fuels learning. Anything that gets you excited about a subject leads to better, learning, memory and retention of that subject. Practicing memory games can make learning more fun and goes a long way towards improving your memory.

2. Learning is cumulative.

We find learning about something very difficult when we don’t have the foundation to understand the subject. Knowledge is cumulative. If you don’t have the basics down the advanced material becomes more difficult.

Begin with something simple, something that interests you and as you learn more about that subject. Ask yourself what else you want to know about. Follow those trails wherever they go and you will find yourself become more knowledgeable about many things.

3. Learning and memory require willpower.

To learn some things requires willpower. I wrote a while back about how many people have difficulties with willpower. One reason willpower is so elusive is our tendency to confuse willpower and won’t power. Another cause of poor willpower is the natural human tendency to enjoy today and forget tomorrow.

The hardest form of willpower is the ability to do something unpleasant today because it will produce future gains.

4. Learning is about how many words you know.

Memories for most people are saved as stories. The more words you know the less effort it takes to convert this expertise, real or imagined, into a story that will be easy to remember.

Movies and books are hard to remember if you don’t have the vocabulary to store and retell the events that made this story important.

Reading anything can improve your vocabulary. The more you read the more you learn and the more able to learn and remember you become.

5. You can’t rely on only one sense to store information into memory.

Having multiple anchors in your memory from multiple senses helps you to store and retrieve that memory.

When there is someone or something that you want to remember to try associating that memory with all your senses. What did it smell like? What were the good smells and the bad orders? Did it touch you internally as well as externally?

Paying attention to the sound of the person’s voice, their facial expressions and the way you experienced their presence will help you in remembering that person.

Most of us have tried to improve memory by becoming better at memorizing words rather than by learning to engage all our senses and fully experience the event.

In future posts, we will talk about some ways to improve your acuity and mental efficiency using senses other than verbal memories as ways to improve your ability to remember.

Go out there and practice mental efficiency, memory improvement and the other skills you will need to create the success you want.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

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For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

4 thoughts on “5 reasons learning and memory are not about intelligence

  1. Pingback: Warning – 6 reasons what you learned may not be true! | counselorssoapbox

  2. Pingback: Why can’t I stay better? Why doesn’t recovery last? | counselorssoapbox

  3. Pingback: Why practice makes perfect is the wrong advice | counselorssoapbox

  4. Really interesting post and point I very much agree with! The rote learning of uninteresting subjects in order to pass tests in most schools is a such a waste of time as the vast majority of the info simply gets lost after the testing as there is no practical use for the info and no desire to retain the info because it is not of interest to the person.

    Thanks for sharing!

    All the best 🙂



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