In simplest terms, academic performance and intelligence tests fail to predict real world success because the knowledge and traits that they emphasize are not necessarily the things we need to survive and thrive. Unfortunately, abilities like efficient memorization of details that lack personal meaning, writing essays, and conforming to what authority demands often have very little to do with attaining success later in life.
As discussed on this site, the learning and memory that we can use to help us survive and thrive is created when we experience neurological growth (see “What Is Learning?“). The fastest way to increase this growth, which increases our Adaptability/Intelligence Factor (see “What Is Intelligence?“), is by having physical experience in real environments. In the element “Experience Beats Linguistic Learning Every Time,” future newsletters, and the book Cracking the Learning Code, we will cover in more depth why experience is a much better promoter of neurological growth than linguistic-based learning systems, but here we will take a quick overview to help you understand why our traditional education methods, which focus primarily on getting people to pass tests, have such limitations.
- It is estimated that real world experiential learning automatically fires 95 percent of all neural structures in a holographic manner, while language-based learning systems only fire 5 percent of neural tissue in a limited brain area. The world of neuroscience recognizes that the more neurons that are stimulated in the brain, the greater opportunity for learning, memory, and behavioral change (see “What is Learning?“).
- From an evolutionary viewpoint, the neurological structures that house speech comprehension and production are not yet mature. It takes millions of years for evolution to refine a trait to maturity. As a comparison, the structures that house sight are over 600 million years old, while the structures that contain speech and linguistic comprehension are only 50,000 to 150,000 years old. This evolutionary immaturity may be one reason linguistics have such limited, effectiveness in producing long-term memory formation. (The exception is for those with a linguistic dominance, see “The 11 Biological Intelligences.”)
- Word-based systems fail to automatically stimulate neurochemical activity with the same intensity as experience. Because real world experience encompasses physical action and rich sensory feedback from complex environments, there is a much stronger activation of the critical neurotransmitter system, which includes dopamine, norepinephrine, serotonin, and acetylcholine, all of which are vital to the formation of attention, long-term memory, and behavioral change. In some instances, physical action in real environments increases by 500 percent the neural chemical activity necessary for forming long-term memory over sitting passively in a chair listening to words. (See “Why Experience Beats Linguistic Learning Every Time.”)
- We remember most easily the information that is relevant to us. The massive neural firing caused by physically moving through time and space activates the all-important Meaning Network (see “Meaning – the Holy Grail of Learning“) which supports the effortless encoding of relevant surviving and thriving information.
- Traditional learning systems focus primarily on getting information into short-term or working memory, so that we may pass tests. Regrettably, painfully memorizing details for hours on end is only one step in the multi-step process that places information into long-term memory. The reason that three months after we take a test most of us remember less than 5 percent of what we memorized is because that information dropped out of working memory. See the elements, “What Is Intelligence?” and “Memory Is Not an Event: The Four Stages of Learning.”