Remember the first time you had to give a presentation in public? You probably wrote down what you wanted to say, then read it out loud over and over, repeating the words just as you wanted to say them in the presentation. It was really, really boring, and you were thinking, “How often do I need to do this before it will stick in my head?”
Researchers at Johns Hopkins’ Department of Rehabilitation Medicine studying how people learn made an interesting discovery (1). They found out that the old adage, “perfect practice makes perfect,” was actually not quite true. Whether it’s memorizing a presentation or learning how to do a front cross in agility, it turns out that we learn faster if we don’t practice perfectly. Let me explain…
How We Learn
When we first begin to learn something, new neuronal pathways send messages to an area of the brain where they are stored. The more those pathways continue to deliver information to the memory storage area, the more permanent the memories become.
Here’s an analogy. There is a huge parking lot on the south end of Baltimore with an elevated highway nearby. When you drive by that parking lot, you can see hundreds, if not thousands, of cars, all identical except for their different colors. These cars arrive by train and are offloaded and then parked in incredibly neat rows – row after row of the same make and model of car. As the train keeps delivering cars, the lot gradually gets full (Figure 1).
CHRIS ZINK DVM PhD DACVP DACVSMR CCRT CVSMT CVA is one of the world’s top canine sports medicine and rehabilitation veterinarians.