The things that people do in the name of science. Imagine agreeing to help with a research project about memory and turning up to see a set of diving equipment waiting for you.
It was an actual experiment that gave fascinating insights. The method works like this.
Take a person underwater and give them a set of facts to remember.
Make sure they have firmly committed those facts to memory before bringing them back to the surface.
Test their recall.
Immediate recall is usually fine.
Wait a couple of days and then test again.
As we would expect, recall drops.
Take them back under water and test them again.
Guess what? Recall improves.
What is going on here?
It an interesting insight into how we learn. Our ability to remember facts is best when we have to recall those facts in the same environment, or context, that we were in when we learnt that information.
This is something we accept intuitively. If we have misplaced our keys, then we retrace our steps to help remind us where they could be hiding.
So learn underwater and we will remember best when we are underwater. Learn in a class room and we remember best when we are back in the class room. Learn in a seminar room and we recall best when we are in the seminar room. It turns out that learning is related to many things including our state, mood, environment and language.1
The simple guide is that if it’s important to remember something, learn it in the same context as you will apply it.
This is one of the big challenges in any coaching, management development or organisational coaching. So often we take people away from their work (the context they will apply) into a training environment.
If it’s important, learn it in the same context you will apply it.