Are you even studying, bro?

12 June 2019

-By Max Peeters

Glass ceiling: An unacknowledged barrier to advancement in a profession, especially affecting women and members of minorities.

As my Communication in Organizations course approaches week eight, I find myself learning about concepts such as glass ceiling. Some of these concepts are easy to remember; yet, other concepts prove tricky.

It has been nearly a year since I stumbled on a tidbit of knowledge that has helped me tremendously in remembering vocabulary. I reckon it will prove just as useful to other students alike.

A plain mind will try to memorize a definition, such as that of glass ceiling, through sheer repetition. A mind fueled on creativity, as if it were colored in with a set of highlighters, will resort to a different tactic of memorization. How does this method of the creative mind work then? Taking a case such as glass ceiling, to remember this definition I pictured a made-up Willy Wonka scene. In it, Willie Wonka, Charlie, and Verruca Salt (the squirrel girl) are standing in the glass elevator. Verruca Salt is pushing the very top button on the elevator panel; ‘up and out’. There is a paradox at play; every time Verruca tries pushing the ‘up and out’ button the elevator wouldn’t budge. It is only when Charlie tries pushing the button that the elevator begins going up. On the surface, this powerful visual serves as a metaphor for describing the glass ceiling phenomenon. Yet, below the surface a much more powerful event is taking place.

A brain exercise, no surgical gloves required:

Picture a spiderweb in your mind. Now picture that someone has scattered a handful of loose sprinkles onto the spider web. You know, the kind of sprinkles you would decorate a cake with! These sprinkles represent what we call ‘nodes’. A node is an individual concept. When we activate one of these nodes, we are automatically activating related nodes (the sprinkles) in the rest of the spiderweb. The process of activating these related nodes is called spreading activation.

If we are trying to learn a new concept but have no other related nodes to tie the definition of the concept to, it becomes increasingly difficult to understand and recall that definition. However, when we can tie this new definition to bits of knowledge (nodes) we already possess, it becomes much easier for us to recall the new node.

In our little analogy above, Verruca Salt, Charlie, the glass elevator, and the series of events are all nodes. When we connect the glass ceiling concept to these nodes, little wires in the brain start to form between the nodes (forming a spiderweb-like structure). Essentially, by high jacking your brains natural hard drive to your advantage you are able to remember things easier and can reduce your study time down remarkably!

If you have read this far I have clearly caught your attention and you are probably secretly figuring out what else you can do with this knowledge (or you’re a student trying to figure out how to do as little studying as possible). If you’re the first of these two you should consider learning about the memory palace technique. Who knows, maybe you’ll become a memory world champion someday!

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