How We Learn: We Remember Emotions

14 Jul
2020

So what do people remember? We remember emotions, our feelings, and the behavior of others. Research shows that emotions are important to learning. “Emotions form a critical piece of how, what, when, and why people think, remember, and learn,” says Mary Helen Immordino-Yang, EdD, associate professor of education, psychology, and neuroscience at the University of Southern California in her book excerpt Why Emotions Are Integral to Learning. We remember things that create an emotion.

We typically don’t remember what people tell us as well as we remember how they made us feel. What you remember from an event: feelings, visual images, people, unexpected situations and their resolution.

According to Nigel Paine, corporate learning expert and author of the The Learning Challenge, “we don’t pay attention to boring things, emotion matters.” Placing content in context and delivering them with emotional impact improves engagement and retention. Dan Pink, author of A Whole New Mind says, “what begins to matter more [than mere data] is the ability to place these facts in context and to deliver them with emotional impact.“ 

Molecular biologist John Medina explains the connection between emotions and the brain in his book Brain Rules: “When the brain detects an emotionally charged event, the amygdala releases dopamine into the system. Because dopamine greatly aids memory and information processing, you could say it creates a Post It note that reads, ‘Remember this.’”

The impact of emotions on learning are why stories are such a powerful tool.

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What is A Learning Journey? Since 1995 I’ve collected an incredible amount of information from learning leaders, educators, scientists, etc. on the topic of learning and development. Consolidating these notes collected from conversations, books, conferences, articles and white papers, and sharing my learning journey as A Learning Journey made sense. Thus the series was born. I hope you find the information valuable.

Craig Dadoly
author

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