Dean 0. J. Ferguson


I propose in a few paragraphs to deal briefly with a large subject by reviewing some of the many excellent ideas which are presented and discussed in a small book by the above title, written by Harry D. Kitson, Ph. D, Professor of Psychology at Indiana University. A copy of the book is in the Engineering library and will well repay close study. A well-thumbed copy of your own would be still more effective.

An early point stressed is the fact that learning is an active process, not a passive one. The mind must be continually on the alert, debating with the speaker or writer. If you would economize in time and effort, it is as necessary to have "good form" in study as it is in an athletic competition.

"Habits of correct thinking are the chief result of correct note taking." Do not become a mechanical recording device, but use your mind to recast the thoughts advanced and accepted, and to organize them into a unified outline upon which the discussion may be reconstructed.

Inasmuch as education is a process of forming habits, be very sure that first acts are correct and are those you wish to retain as a part of the habit. Then, proceed immediately to use correctly the newly acquired impression. Be very deliberate and very sure of these first times. Study very intimately the things about you. This will form the basis from which you may build the images which are a very large part of your mental life.

As for memory, "Much of the poor memory that people complain about is due to the fact that they make first impressions carelessly." Try to recall various impressions you have received, such as the taste of raisins, the voice of your instructor pronouncing some word, the feeling of a rough orange skin. Determine, if you can, whether you are more effectively impressed through one sense than another,—feeling, hearing, seeing.

Concentration of attention is likened to the fixation of the vision upon a specific object. This object is surrounded by a group of things which gradually fade off into oblivion as their distances increase from the centerpoint. You are more or less conscious of them. So also, the subject being considered by choice is not the only one in your consciousness, all others being more or less disturbing influences affecting the attention. You should, therefore, begin by perfecting as fully as possible your surround-ings so far as their harmful effects upon studying go. Having reduced their number to a minimum, some still remain which you must habitually strive to ignore. This is quite possible and becomes increasingly effective, as it is practiced.

In reasoning you must first, recognize and acknowledge a difficulty or a problem; second, recall related ideas giving light upon the solution; third, decide upon the constructive process which gives a result in which you may have confidence. Hence, studying is the more effective, the more persistently you set for yourself and solve mental problems as to "why" and "how."

Psychologists tell us that any stimulation, be it either physical or mental, will result in bodily motion. This is a means of recording the experience. The permanency of the record depends upon the definiteness of the motion. Therefore it is of immense importance to you to express very definitely your new experiences. This is the basis of the effectiveness of the process of reciting a lesson or talking over the subject with a fellow student, arguing it out to a clear result. This expression both clarifies ideas and stimulates thought.

Examinations serve the useful purpose of showing both your instructor and you how much knowledge you possess, and how well organized your mental processes are. Cramming in preparation for an examination is a help if it consists in a remanipulation of facts already learned. It is detrimental if it becomes an attempt to marshal an array of new considerations, which are thus thrown hodge-podge into what should have been an orderly set of previously acquired experiences. The method used in cramming is what determines its value.

Considerable stress is laid upon the effect of bodily conditions upon ones study. They should be conducive to comfort and the elimination of distractions. Health is an important factor. Proper food in proper quantities at proper times is essential. Fresh air, exercise, restful sleep,—all establish a necessary background for vigorous effective study.