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Maximize Your Mind’s Performance by Distracting Yourself

April 30, 2008
Well, I’m majoring in Biological Sciences despite being good at English and History; am I just engaging in a long-term validation of this study?
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Desperate to memorize a crucial fact? Look over there! (Kidding.) The trick is to distract yourself by studying stuff that’s slightly different from whatever you’re trying to learn. Your brain will then work harder to permanently store the original information. It’s a tricky concept, but here’s an example: In 2007, researchers asked UCLA students to try to memorize a set of 48 word pairs (country: Russia, fruit: lemon, flower: lily, etc.). After studying the list, some students then had to sit through a slide show and view closely related material (flower: rose). Guess what? The distracted students performed better on subsequent recall tests. “Distraction forces you to engage in processing,” says Benjamin Storm, a UCLA researcher who oversaw the study. Hey, up in the sky — is that a blimp?

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