Law in Contemporary Society
Concerning today's discussion on reading/listening to internalize the material rather than forget it: is it possible that under some circumstances, there's simply too much material to internalize it all? It reminds me of the idea that high school is like sipping from a water fountain, college is like drinking from a garden hose, and law school is like trying to drink from a high-pressure fire hose. I'm making an honest effort to read for comprehension and understanding, but sometimes I feel like there's a bit too much for me to really remember it all.

-- WhytneBrooks - 23 Apr 2008

From my understanding of cognitive science, there is little variation in a person's genetic capacity to memorize things. Everybody has the potential to retain a tremendous amount of information and retrieve it quickly. Indeed, those are the two components of memory - storage and retrieval. Since the storage does not diminish in its organic substance, i.e. proverbial brain-cells-never-die-except-by-drugs-and-damage theory, information theoretically sticks with you forever. The retrieval part is usually what slows down some and speeds up others. Retrieval connections can be destroyed only to be restored again, or others impaired quickly and permanently.

The former process is quintessential to a robust memory. It is called the 'spacing effect' and was discovered by Ebbinghaus in the 19th century. You can optimize your retrieval strength by recalling information precisely when you are about to forget it. Repeating that process several times leads to permanent storage of information - Moglen's knowledge-in-action theory, otherwise knowledge dies.

The key to Ebbinghaus's theory is to learn, on an individual basis, when your forgetting moment occurs. If, through empirical observation, I forget information on the third day, I should relearn it then because that is the optimal moment of reinforcing and retaining knowledge permanently.

This is perhaps not useful, but at least it offers a multilayer approach to your question (whose short answer is no).

-- JesseCreed - 23 Apr 2008

I think Jesse's solution -- recalling info right before you forget it -- is relevant to a lot of situations in life, but is hard to implement with the time constraints of law school combined with the volume of information to be absorbed. I couldn't image taking the time, every day, to reintroduce (albeit in less time) myself to what I learned three days previously, plus initially learn whatever new assignments I need to learn that day. The combination of law school time crunch/info volume, with the fact that, under Jesse's approach, we would have to retain and reintroduce all of this information over a four-month period, is what makes me think this solution would be, for the average person like me (maybe not Eben), hard to implement and effectively keep going into finals week. Then again, I guess someone could call me on the fact that I could apply the time I choose to be on the Twiki to studying efforts instead. I guess my response would be that I know what my burnout limit is, and when I'm approaching it. Individual tolerances for burnout is another issue altogether that we have to layer on top of this analysis.

-- BarbPitman - 23 Apr 2008

According to the guy who wrote this program, we no longer need to rely on empirical observation to determine our own "forgetting moment." The program, which is based on the theory Jesse described above, keeps track of when you learn discrete bits of information, and monitors your memory through quizzes. By adjusting the length of time in between quizzes, the program generates a model of your own personal forgetting curve, which theoretically enables you to optimize your memory by reviewing at precisely the right moment. I know very little about this theory of memory, and I'm a little incredulous about the program, but it's certainly a fascinating idea.

-- JuliaS - 23 Apr 2008

Ahah! So Eben is a "hide-the-baller" just like the rest of 'em! I bet he was the second person ever to use SuperMemo? , and that's how he learned all of our names in a week smile

-- BarbPitman - 24 Apr 2008

I think that actual learning also requires an understanding of why the new information matters. The "smartest" people I know seem to have brains like a huge sticky framework - when they learn something new, they think about how it relates to the information they already have and if/why that is interesting in some way. If it is interesting, they decide where this new information belongs in the framework and stick it there. This is related to the consilient learning idea as well.

Law school starts throwing piles of information at us from day one without ensuring that there is some framework of understanding to put it in. Why not spend the first semester in law school thinking about the law as philosophers would. What is this institution? What is it trying to accomplish? Then as we read new cases, whether it be in property or contracts, we should always be encouraged to think about the larger framework - where this fits in to our notions of social good/justice/punishment and whether it should be that way. Professors should tell us their thoughts and, encourage us to think about why this new information matters. Then we will be more likely to learn and more likely to do something worthwhile with the knowledge.

-- ErikaKrystian - 26 Apr 2008



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r8 - 07 Jan 2010 - 22:19:58 - IanSullivan
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