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How We Learn: The Surprising Truth About When, Where, and Why It Happens Hardcover – September 9, 2014

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“This book is a revelation. I feel as if I’ve owned a brain for fifty-four years and only now discovered the operating manual. For two centuries, psychologists and neurologists have been quietly piecing together the mysteries of mind and memory as they relate to learning and knowing. Benedict Carey serves up their most fascinating, surprising, and valuable discoveries with clarity, wit, and heart. I wish I’d read this when I was seventeen.”—Mary Roach, bestselling author of Stiff and Gulp
 
How We Learn makes for a welcome rejoinder to the faddish notion that learning is all about the hours put in. Learners, [Benedict] Carey reminds us, are not automatons.”The New York Times Book Review
 
“The insights of How We Learn apply to far more than just academic situations. Anyone looking to learn a musical instrument would benefit from understanding what frequency and type of practice is most effective. Even readers with little practical use for Carey’s information will likely find much of it fascinating, such as how intuition can be a teachable skill, or that giving practice exams at the very beginning of a semester improves grades. How We Learn is a valuable, entertaining tool for educators, students and parents.”Shelf Awareness

How We Learn is more than a new approach to learning; it is a guide to making the most out of life. Who wouldn’t be interested in that?”—Scientific American
 
“Whether you struggle to remember a client’s name, aspire to learn a new language, or are a student battling to prepare for the next test, this book is a must. I know of no other source that pulls together so much of what we know about the science of memory and couples it with practical, practicable advice.”—Daniel T. Willingham, professor of psychology at the University of Virginia and author of Raising Readers in an Age of Distraction

How We Learn is as fun to read as it is important, and as much about how to live as it is about how to learn. Benedict Carey’s skills as a writer, plus his willingness to mine his own history as a student, give the book a wonderful narrative quality that makes it all the more accessible—and all the more effective as a tutorial.”—Robert A. Bjork, Distinguished Research Professor, Department of Psychology, University of California, Los Angeles
 
“Fact #1: Your brain is a powerful and eccentric machine, capable of performing astonishing feats of memory and skill. Fact #2: Benedict Carey has written a book that will inspire and equip you to use your brain in a more effective way. Fact #3: You should use your brain—right now—to buy this book for yourself and for anyone who wants to learn faster and better.”—Daniel Coyle, bestselling author of The Talent Code

About the Author

Benedict Carey is an award-winning science reporter who has been at The New York Times since 2004, and one of the newspaper’s most emailed reporters. He graduated from the University of Colorado with a bachelor’s degree in math and from Northwestern University with a master’s in journalism, and has written about health and science for twenty-five years. He lives in New York City.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Random House (September 9, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812993888
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812993882
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (135 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #15,666 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

141 of 143 people found the following review helpful By Evelyn Uyemura VINE VOICE on June 27, 2014
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I keep up fairly well with research in the field of psychology and learning in particular, so much of this information was not entirely new and surprising to me, but Benedict Carey does a great job of pulling a lot of different research together and presenting it a practical way. This is more a guide to what is known than a self-help book, but it will definitely be of use both to teachers and students who want to understand how to study more effectively.

A couple of take-aways--half-forgetting and then re-learning, especially by trying to remember, make the thing you are trying to learn really stick. So as a teacher, when I start class on Monday and ask students to recall what it was we were working on last Friday, that is not just review--that is learning. It would be best, I suppose, if instead of asking the whole class and letting one or two students do the hard work, I had everyone try their best to write down what the remember about passive voice or the subjunctive.

That brings up another great point that he makes--that testing, quizzing, and self-testing are highly effective ways not of evaluating but of actually learning. This helps to overcome what he calls the Fluency Illusion, and what I have long called the "smile-and-nod" level of understanding. IN other words, when the teacher is doing math problems on the board and you are watching, you understand--you smile and nod and think, ok, yeah, sure, I get it. It is only when the tables are turned and the teacher says, Ok, now you try it, that the gaps in understanding are revealed.

So if you are studying for a test on state capitals, let's say, and you see Georgia: Atlanta, you think right, sure. But it's not until someone says Georgia and you can say Atlanta that you actually know it.
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115 of 117 people found the following review helpful By iWin on October 30, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
Benedict Carey's "How We Learn" is focused on the process of enhancing and exercising our memories in order to achieve positive results in memorization. He goes in depth in helping his readers enhance their memories through several techniques, in order to register, store and retrieve information. Most of us are not aware that our brains are capable of so much, but Benedict Carey makes the process look easy. Some of his techniques range from beginners techniques, to more advanced. I pretty much have the beginners techniques down pact; I would like to divulge into the more advanced techniques, as enhancing my memory has become a number one priority in my life.

Repetition, according to Benedict, is a vital part in helping us to enhance the memory. We must train our brains, in a way, so that certain things we may forget become more and more routine to us. For example, I sometimes forget to lock all the doors in my house before going to sleep. If I am aware of this and practice locking the doors each and every night, soon enough it will become routine to me and I'll no longer forget to do it.

I read this book, in conjunction with Greg Frosts book, "Maximizing Brain Control : Unleash The Genius In You", and I'm starting to feel more confident and knowledgeable in learning about the human brain and how to store and retrieve information. Both are excellent resources and combined, can truly work wonders for you if you take them serious and truly want to enhance your brain capacity.

Good Habits is a key technique both books teach.
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67 of 70 people found the following review helpful By William Van Hefner VINE VOICE on August 10, 2014
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
How We Learn is an enjoyable enough book that doesn't have nearly as much to do with learning as it does memorization. The majority of the studies cited in this book have to do with memorizing what is largely random data that is not necessarily of use in real life. There are a number of practical pieces of advice for studying and retaining (any type of) information, but honestly, these could have been easily summarized in just a few pages. Just as often, these studies leave us with more questions than answers and in no case do the people conducting the studies have any evidence proving WHY some methods of study lead to better memory retention than others. There are a lot of theories in the book, but at this chapter in human history the brain is so little understood that most theories on memory retention are hardly better than educated guesses.

What this book is NOT is a step-by-step, how-to manual on how to learn more effectively. The process of learning is a lot different than just memorizing facts, although you probably wouldn't know that from taking a look at this country's horrible education system. I did enjoy reading the information that was in the book. It did have a few useful tips and some facts about memorization that I had not know about previously. It definitely was not what I was expecting based upon its title, description or many of the reviews I have read here though.
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69 of 73 people found the following review helpful By B.L. on September 3, 2014
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
There's plenty of information here to work with. How to be a better learner seems to be a big trend in recent books. In the past couple of months I've read Fluent Forever (about language learning) and A Mind For Numbers (about being a good student, particularly in math and science) and they've all been released at the same time. They're also all, I'm very happy to say, strongly grounded in real research, rather than just making up some interesting-sounding notions about what might work (I have certainly seen books that did that...)

I would have to say that someone who wants to be a great student ASAP is probably better off reading A Mind For Numbers first. That book takes you by the hand and leads you through the ideas about what you need to DO a lot more specifically. It makes very frequent references to research, but it's plainly written with the intention of being a guide for people who are taking and really need to hone in on exactly what to do NOW, because there are tests coming up. It leads you through the material by the hand, pretty much, asking you questions and reminding you to stop and think about what you've read. It also has a (free) online MOOC through Coursera to go with it that covers/reinforces the same material.

Fluent Forever, in its effort to teach people how to learn languages, makes use of some of the same research, but shapes it to its topic. It offers a sort of general idea of how you should proceed, but the emphasis is on giving you a basic plan and just enough understanding of the research so that you can make good decisions about how to move forward with it.

I feel like How We Learn is a little farther down the spectrum in that same direction.
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