Is there a difference between how our brains file information about ourselves versus general information about our environment? Yes. The neurolearning blog has a great post titled personal learner
on this subject that I highly recommend clicking over to and reading. You might pay special attention to all the great links at the end of their post.
"This study is a good reminder that when we really personalize information (general knowledge vs. knowledge that we relate to ourselves), we change how the information is filed, and increase the likelihood that it will be remembered and used later.
The figure below shows the brain activity differences in subjects either reading a list of personality traits or reading and reflecting whether the traits applied to them (e.g. good, kind vs. Am I good? Am I kind?).
Self-referential information is remembered best.
Two reflections for teaching - first, it's worthwhile to know that personal learning is not only more motivating, but it is also more memorable. For some teachers, this may mean they have to work hard to connect new information with what students already know. Connections might be intersections personal events, histories, or interests, analogical situations or themes from current events, or parallels concepts in different disciplines.
Second, there are some students with such a strong preference for personal learning that it seems it is the only way they learn. Be on the look out for these kids. These students may have erratic performances in different subjects (might depend on the teacher or how the subject is taught), and yet clearly be very knowledgeable. Strong personal learners may be gregarious people who are natural story-tellers...because it's who they are as stories are very personal.
As strong personal learners grow older, many may recognize this trait more. More will be able to consciously choose the situations in which they can thrive."
Please see the neurolearning blog
for many more insightful posts.
Zack Lynch, managing director of NeuroInsights
, is an economic and social forecaster advising global organizations on the impact of neurotechnology on business, government and society. He serves on the advisory boards of the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT,Center for Cognitive Liberty & Ethics, Global Neuroscience Initiative, the Center for Neuroeconomic Studies and SocialText, a social software company. He is currently finishing his book on Neurosociety: How Brain Science Is Shaping the Future of Business, Politics and Culture.