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22089: Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything - Joshua FOER

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Tedium was actually seen as a virtue. And the teachers were backed up by a popular scientific theory known as ?faculty psychology,? which held that the mind consisted of a handful of specific mental ?faculties? that could each individually be trained, like muscles, through rigorous exercise. Toward the end of the nineteenth century, a group of leading psychologists began to question the empirical basis of ?faculty psychology.? In his 1890 book Principles of Psychology, William James set out to see ?whether a certain amount of daily training in learning poetry by heart will shorten the time it takes to learn an entirely different kind of poetry.? He spent more than two hours over eight successive days memorizing the first 158 lines of the Victor Hugo poem ?Satyr,? averaging fifty seconds a line. With that baseline established, James set about memorizing the entire first book of Paradise Lost. When he returned to Hugo, he found that his memorization time had actually declined to fifty-seven seconds a line. Practicing memorization had made him worse at it, not better.

Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything by Joshua FOER
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