Do you ever find that some things slip your mind immediately, while others you tend to remember for months or even years? Do you ever struggle to get certain things into your head and keep them there for longer than necessary? Multiple factors contribute to the process of remembering events, things, or facts, one of which is the affective filter. In the following paragraphs, I will explain how our brains and psyche work and how they affect our learning abilities.
Stephen Krashen is an American linguist who contributed to the development of language learning and learning in general with his work. His most famous theory is called SLAT (Second Language Acquisition Theory), but its principles can also be applied in a broader context. From a definition standpoint, it belongs to the humanistic-affective approaches to education. This “brain” distinguishes between two terms – acquisition and learning. Acquisition is an unconscious process that uses global strategies of the right hemisphere and analytical strategies of the left hemisphere. This leads to the storage of things in long-term memory. Learning is a rational process led by the left hemisphere. Therefore, its result is not stable acquisition of certain information, but it can manifest itself in a person’s “monitor” during communication (explained below). This second process can also have positive results, but they are not stable. What does that mean? This is when it slips our mind immediately. Learning is often a process used in schools. We try to cram a lot of information into our heads, but the long-term results are usually zero or close to it. In a mini-survey I conducted with university students about what they think helps them remember things for a longer time, they answered differently, but certain responses were more common. I will also highlight them in this theory.
Returning to the psychological monitor of a person, it is a kind of internal factor that adjusts (corrects) what we are going to say based on our previous knowledge. It is an inner factor that interconnects what we already know with what we have learned or experienced. The most obvious manifestation of this monitor is in learning foreign languages, where it takes the form of a metalinguistic conscious correction. Interestingly, this monitor does not function in children.
Another hypothesis of Krashen is the natural order (i+1). This means that input (what we put into our memory, mind) should occur in a natural order, building on what we already know. If this “thread” is broken and what we are learning is miles away from what we have learned so far, our brain cannot connect and organize it in a way that makes sense. This gradually becomes more difficult as we continue to accumulate knowledge. The fourth hypothesis is input. It should be understandable, graded, systematic, and of course, pleasant. University students were also aware of this in a mini survey. 60% of responses leaned towards the idea that what helps them “not forget things immediately” is the fact that they enjoy what they are learning. This is a pleasant, “likeable” input. 23% of responses showed that we need to understand what we are learning. This means understandable input, as well as the hypothesis of natural order. In the 60% larger group, there are certainly people who understand what they are learning because they enjoy it. The fifth and very important hypothesis is the affective filter. This is sometimes forgotten, even if teachers try to “plant” grains of a particular substance into the student’s brain using violent methods regardless of the person’s personality. However, students themselves sometimes do not help in this regard, if they put more negatives than positives in front of themselves (although they are sometimes seemingly more). The affective filter is a psychological motivation. In a state of peace, satisfaction, and relaxation, adrenaline transforms into noradrenaline, which supports memorization. Conversely, in a state of stress, the amygdala (a body in the middle part of the temporal lobe) comes into conflict with the hippocampus (a part of the brain that helps move information from short-term to long-term memory). The amygdala is also considered the center of emotions and emotional memory. Its changes are related to many mental illnesses. Hippocampal disorders, on the other hand, mainly manifest themselves in Alzheimer’s disease, memory disorders, and disorientation. If the amygdala and hippocampus “fight,” the self-defense mechanism is activated based on the state of anxiety. It sends a warning signal to our brain that our image in the eyes of others, their respect for us, and also the signal that we are uncomfortable may be threatened. If this psychological block occurs, we will find it very difficult to get things into our heads.
Another factor that influences memory is the theory of personality structure. Our personality has several characteristics (activation-motivation, relational-attitudinal, performance, dynamic, self-regulatory, and psychological process and state characteristics). An important component is activation-motivation characteristics, which include a person’s interests. Interests are a kind of long-term focus of the personality on certain objects and also a special kind of motivational force. This supports and facilitates all of Krashen’s hypotheses. Interests can develop only under certain conditions (internal and external) and are the easiest to influence, compared to values or attitudes, for example. This means that if a personality that influences people is so great that it attracts twice as many people as the usual 45 out of 100, it can influence their long-term memory and direction. However, this also works with anti-interest. Forcing and limiting freedom leads to internal conflict, which brings us back to the affective filter.
So, what should we not forget?
-If you ever teach someone, don’t forget about understandable input, natural order, distinguishing between acquisition and learning of information, and the affective filter. If you’re learning yourself, try to become aware of these psychological processes. I believe it will be better! 😉
-Ask questions, repeat, listen to things again, make the input as clear as possible.
-Focus on the positives more than the negatives, even though your pros and cons scales may lean more towards the opposite side.
-Question: Who influences your interests?
So good luck with long-term memorization of things you want to shape your personality with!