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be still….and learn.

In the late 1890’s, a group of German psychologists were performing experiments to test the minds’ ability to remember short term. First, they gave a list of nonsense words to a group of people to memorize. A day later, they tested the group, who had no problems recalling the list. Second, they gave the same list to a different group to memorize, but this time gave a 2nd list of words immediately after learning the first. The next day, this group was unable to remember the initial set of words.

But in a third group, they gave a first list to memorize. Then after a delay of two hours, were given the second list to study. As with the first group, these had little trouble recalling the initial set of nonsense words. What does this tell us?

As noted with research on boxers in the late 1800’s, “a memory, even a strong one, remains unstable for a brief period after it’s formed.”

If you’re like me, you’ve immediately begun thinking about practical applications for something like this. Not the least of which – how to encourage families (including my own) to chew on the Word of God brought to the table each Sunday morning throughout the week? Or in schooling, how to make sure that when our children learn something, they can remember it the following day?

By slowing down the pace of life. By reducing the speed at which new activities come. After a lesson or message, paying attention to what comes next. Not jumping right into something that requires large amounts of thought. Of course we also know that reinforcing a topic through repetition, review, and discussion can all help in large ways also.

Which kinda makes the average school day seem less effective, as students move from attaching their brains to one hose of information to the next, with very little time in between to solidify the memory of that knowledge. It seems like it would do parents some good to try and “bring to the surface” each class individually from that day, and after each discussion give some downtime to allow those memories to catch. If anything, to try and schedule the class your student struggles in either just before lunch, or at the end of the day. Although then perhaps you have to fight the anxious distractions of “I’m just about to leave.” syndrome.

As for the Word of God that comes to us New every morning? That upon receiving it, we would spend time, either alone in quiet, or around a table (with food? 🙂 ) discussing and reviewing it together. Which points to meals together after church as being more than just a “nice Sabbath family tradition”, and more of a “vital Sabbath family practice” to encourage the long-term working of God’s Word in our hearts and lives.

In either case, if we want something to be remembered…we stay OFF the internet for a while after it. The immediate requirements placed on our working memory while we use the web fights against our brains ability to consolidate long-term memories and development of schemas.



Husband, Father, Pastor, Missionary, Writer, Poet, Friend, reader, coffee enthusiast, hockey Wing-Nut, musical participator, etc...

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