Learning, Memory, Sleep And Baby Sign ~ Chris

I’ve been fascinated with human psychology and behaviour my entire life.  In fact, I originally went to University to study psychology but later found that my science courses lead me into discovering far more answers than did my psychology courses.  Thus, I swapped from a psychology major to a psychology minor and upped my science to a major.  While I learned a lot of the basics in University, it was real life that really reinforced my understanding of people.

I like to look at things a little bit different from the rest, and I think this helps me.  I’m not married to any particular train of thought, that it until I find something that works for me.  By work, I mean something that yields the results that I wish for.  I hear so many people complain daily about their struggles, yet do very little, nothing at all, or actually do things to make them worse off.  This puzzles me to no end.  If you ask me, it’s better to come to a situation with a clean slate and work toward a solution that actually works.  Naturally, you can’t just do whatever you want in life…well you can, just you can’t rightfully expect the results you want by doing so.  That is, for every action, there is an equal and logical reaction.  What you do directly impacts upon what results you get.

While certain results might make you feel like the world is against you (and often it’s not exactly cooperating), the blame can often be attributed back to you.  I have found that many people let pride and ego dictate their actions rather than mastering their actions within the realm of nature.  Nature is a driving force in all of our lives and sets the rules by which we must abide by.  If you choose to work against these laws then you’re in for a difficult (and unnecessary) struggle.  While you may assume I’m overthinking things, and maybe I am for our purpose, I still enjoy results that don’t cause me to suffer undue stress and of which produce the results I can enjoy.  Like Dr. Phil mentions over and over again on his show “How’s that working for you?”

So I’m off on a tangent right now, but my initial purpose for this post was to describe the research I heard some time ago about how the mind works to produce memories.  Scientists think that sleep is a time when our brains work and re-work our day’s tasks into long-term storage.  Therefore our “down-time” is a time where our memories are consolidated.  This makes sense to me.  Think about the last time you work hard on learning something new.  You likely spent a good time in the early parts of sleep rehearsing over and over again the task – almost as if you were doing it right then and there.  Imagine playing Tetris or learning to drive by example.  This is your brain’s way of hardening the neural pathways in your mind.  It’s setting the connections and reinforcing them.  When downhill skiers visually practice their run at the start of the gate, they’re doing the same thing.  Sports experts know this well, and use visualization often to help an athlete improve their performance.

As this applies to baby sign language and learning in general, you should take away that babies who learn skills over the course of several days will master something faster than if they were exposed to it only once.  This is because their minds will have had more exposures over many days and had many chances to “sleep on it.”  The more “sleeps” a baby has on a task, the more consolidated is their specific memory.  This is why baby signing takes many exposures over many days to work.  Adults are no different.  In fact, it’s the things we do daily that become part of our core memories because we sleep on them so many times.  When your kids are eventually faced with tests (or you are) be sure to learn and re-learn the material over several days rather than a quick cram so that your brain has a chance to solidly wire itself producing a mastery of the material.  Cramming has been shown to help in the short term, but in the long term, the memories will simply fad away.  The things we do all day long eventually become permanent in our minds and so long as we keep doing them, will harden to the point where we find them easy to do requiring no active thought whatsoever.  Any new driver will attest to this, their minds are actively thinking about driving, while an experienced driver often relies exclusively on their consolidated memories to bring them to their destination – nary an active thought.

Therefore, to teach baby’s to sign, teach your baby frequently, and teach your baby daily.  The more times you expose your baby to signs, the more times your baby will sleep on the task and the more it will become reinforced.

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