Familiarity and recollection

  • Familiarity is the sense that you’ve seen something before. That feeling of, “ah, I’ve seen this before,” is commonly confused with actually being able to recollect said information. 
  • Recollection is much more than familiarity. To recollect something, you need to be able to produce the answer without prompt.
  • When something feels familiar, but you can’t actually recollect it when self-testing, you have an incorrect assumption about your own knowledge.
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Problem Solving




Meta-learning is when you learn about how much you know and don’t know in a particular domain.

Meta-learning is important because it’s easy to delude yourself into believing you know more than you actually do.

  • Self-testing: Doing practice problems, flashcard reviews or even creating your own questions gives you the chance to see past familiarity and get more accurate information about what you know and don’t know.
  • Self-explanation: Articulation is a difficult task, so weaknesses in your knowledge get exposed quickly.

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Language And The Way We Think

Language is a literal and linguistic tool that many believe is a fundamental basis of the way we think. Some have hypothesized (like the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis) that many languages do not have room for certain thought patterns, and are able to alter our thoughts.

The underlying logic is just because there is no word in a certain language to express something, people who speak the language will not be able to think it, and if they learn a different language, new words and phrases are learned, leading to new ways of thinking.

Open-ended tasks

Open-ended tasks are any tasks that don't have a definite endpoint. Activities like "studying", "working" or "tweaking" waste your time and cause procrastination. "I should really study" is open-ended because it does not have a specific to-do list to learn the material.

A solution is to close all the ends. Set up specific to-do lists which outlines your tasks on what needs to be done. When the to-do list is completed, you stop.

Confirmation Bias: Selective Spotlighting That Is Inevitable

Confirmation bias is a common tendency to self-promote and validate our own beliefs. Most controversial issues have people who are for or against the given topic, and tend to look at points that support their existing belief patterns.

Daniel Kahneman, a Nobel prize winning psychologist states that though we can be provided with tools to be aware of the cognitive errors and biases in humans, we are still unable to fix our own.

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