How Your Brain Works: The Power of Patterns

repeated patterns

Your brain is a natural seeker, recognizer, discriminator, interpreter, relater, connector, and creator of PATTERNS

Your brain loves patterns and hates randomness.

For example…

  • !nkcsrveeeoo htB” is no fun to read because it’s just an apparent jumble of random symbols with no apparent meaning.
  • Beethoven rocks!” is fun to read because it contains recognizable patterns that mean something.

An astonishing example of the power of our pattern-loving brains:

Cna yuo raed tihs? i cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg aubot the phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy it dseno’t mtaetr in waht oerdr the ltteres in a wrod are the olny iproamtnt tihng is taht the frsit and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae the rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it whotuit a pboerlm tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef but the wrod as a wlohe.

Implications for Students and Teachers

  • Learning need not be a brute force memory task.
  • “Memorized” information is hard to learn and easy to forget.
  • Memorization of unconnected information is mentally exhausting (and usually unnecessary).
  • Once you see a pattern, you don’t have to try to remember it. It is impossible to forget.
  • Learning new patterns is fun & easy if you connect them to patterns you already know.
  • The more useful patterns you have stored in your long-term memory, the easier it is to learn new things. Each pattern already stored gives you a foundation on which to build even more complex patterns.
  • If you are a teacher, you need to invest your time & energy teaching useful patterns.
  • If you are a student, you need to invest your time & energy discovering, studying, and mastering useful patterns.
  • A word of warning: BAD patterns also exist. Once a useless, confusing, or destructive pattern gets stored, useless, confusing, or dangerous things start to happen. And so, you must be careful what knowledge, beliefs, and habits you store in memory.
  • Present ease is enabled by past efforts. For example, the effort you invested in learning your ABCs and phonics is makes reading these words easy. Likewise, future ease is enabled by your present efforts!

learn more… How Your Brain Works: Memory Challenge

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