Processing Information Faster and Relating it to What You Know

Dumb is a broad term, at least that is what I like to believe. At at very young age, I have found myself learning things much slower than most of my friends. But then I learned the concept of brain plasticity from my psychology class and found it is possible to rewire our brain through training. What I have learned from my research and experimentation is that it is very hard to increase your IQ(Whatever that is), but it is very possible to train yourself to become a better thinker.

To process information faster:

  • It doesn’t means you have to force yourself to concentrate and think faster. You will be overloaded with too much information and stress, which can result in an analysis paralysis.
  • Around 80% — 90% of the information in any given situation can be irrelevant. Our brain also tends to operate better when we are working with less information. Thus practice comprehending what is going on by only looking for the key points and filtering out the irrelevant information.
  • People that have trouble operating on very little information tend to be good critical thinkers. They are the people that would think slowly through every possible angle of the information in order to reach a conclusion they are satisfied with. It is very good for philosophical thinking and generating ideas, but not for processing information fast.

Learning things by relating it to what you know:

  • It works very well, until it doesn’t work. An example would be if a chimpanzee would receive a banana every time he performs a certain trick, he would come to learn that is the way his world works. Then one day his owner was in a bad mood and decides not to give him banana when he performs a trick. The chimpanzee gets confused and have a hard time relating this to what he knows.
  • We are a lot smarter than chimpanzees, but we often make the same mistake on a higher level. I hit a block when I was trying to learn variables in math class in elementary school. It was too different from how I learned everything up to that point. How does 2X+Y=3 turns into Y=3–2X? And how did the 2X move to the other side like that? I had trouble relating to what is going on.
  • The way we understand how the world works can be very limited compared to how the world actually works. Whenever you have to learn something new or solve a problem that is outside your usual area of expertise, you have to adapt a new way of thinking instead of just applying how you think it works to it. Overtime the limits of your thinking can be expanded, and you will become more flexible with your thinking.

The original article was published as an answer on Quora.