We live in an era where the answer to almost any fact-based question is no further than a Google search away, but Scientific American highlights a study suggesting subjects forced to get something wrong before being told the answer learn it better.
Photo by John Althouse Cohen.
In many ways the results don't seem terribly surprising &mdash ;everyone's had that one fact they remember better than all the rest because it was the one they kept getting wrong. But it also flies in the face of the way many schools teach their students and the way the internet has spoiled us.
People remember things better, longer, if they are given very challenging tests on the material, tests at which they are bound to fail. In a series of experiments, they showed that if students make an unsuccessful attempt to retrieve information before receiving an answer, they remember the information better than in a control condition in which they simply study the information. Trying and failing to retrieve the answer is actually helpful to learning.
It's easy to understand the idea, whether or not the study's findings surprise you, but keep them in mind next time you're about to Google something and consider getting it wrong on your own before you go looking for the quick answer elsewhere.
Getting It Wrong: Surprising Tips on How to Learn [Scientific American]