Time-efficient study methods for marginal people

We marginal types tend to have similar cognitive profiles and knowledge bases: better-than-average general knowledge and general intelligence (which isn’t saying much), and disproportionately high knowledge and genius within our obsessive niche fields (possibly the common causal factor in all marginal cases is disproportionate brain development- as compared to conformist averages, naturally). We also manage such proficiencies entirely within our free time, which tends to be somewhat sparing.

One really nice thing about modern life is audiobooks. They are a great reason to do all sorts of otherwise boring chores like cooking, cleaning, driving, and, if at all possible, one’s day job. But they are limited in that they don’t allow analytical focus, and therefore cannot be used to learn technical material, skills, philosophy, or anything colloquially belonging within the left-brain’s domain. On the other hand, they are great for absorbing large quantities of right-brain stuff quickly: entertaining stories, history, fairy tales, news, that sort of thing. You know, stuff where stuff happens. This is probably because verbal memory is short, so the incoming stream needs to be immediately translated from words into images (or equivalent sensations).

I recommend getting accustomed to speed-listening by gradually turning up the reading speed on Audible or Smart AudioBook Player. If you’re having trouble concentrating, it’s quite possible that the reader is going too slow to engage you, like listening to a lecturer rephrase an easy concept several times. Otherwise, the material may not be appropriate for the medium- in that case, pick up something trashy and fun, like Monster Hunter International or Harry Potter. If audiobooks exist on the history of your niche interest (math, science, military, political and music history come to mind), they are an extremely good way to fill in some of the general and cultural knowledge you’re probably missing. (It’s also nice to feel like part of a big, noble tradition within your field.)

The ability to learn skills from written directions seems to be a recurring problem for some aspies, and a perishable skill to boot. There seems to be a sort of all-or-nothing focus that is absolutely necessary for this task, so that one can concretely imagine oneself completing the tasks while reading about them- while reading about how to remove stains from whites, one is thinking of a particular white shirt with a particular stain to remove at a specific time at a specific place. The only untested tip I have here is to practice this sort of focus. Remove all distractions (audio and visual), keep the learning portion as close in time as possible to its application, and practice this focus on stuff that already holds your interest (generalize to unmotivated subjects afterward). This latter bit seems to be the reason aspies have trouble generalizing their knowledge and skills despite their high general intelligence, and worse, lose the general ability to learn skills from written materials due to repeated motivation failures in educational settings:

In particular, for the vast majority of students in the vast majority of institutions there is no vocational, knowledge-and-skill-based or professional reason for the course of study; and (obviously!) a near-zero proportion of students are interested in the subject ‘for its own sake’.

The result is students who are fundamentally unmotivated with respect to the ostensible subject being studied; and therefore a steady downward-pressure on educational standards and steadily-inflationary pressure on the value of qualifications – that is; the minimum of work, knowledge and skill for the highest graded qualification (and no failure) – as a by-product leading to inexorable lengthening of the educational process required to get any actually-useful education.

Conscientiousness can be seen as the ability to work hard and steadily despite lack of motivation – therefore, in the modern higher educational system where almost nobody is motivated – the ones who do best are those who can complete educational programs and evaluations despite an almost complete lack of motivation.

Bruce Charlton
Low Motivation – Another reason why high trait Conscientiousness (low trait Psychoticism) is positively selected by modern higher education

This sort of “conscientiousness must be distinguished from the Cooijmans and MBTI varieties. Maybe that’s a future post. Anyway, the point here is we stop doing things that are consistently painful, and education usually makes it consistently painful to learn stuff by reading the directions. Aspies are among the most likely to have this technical skill acquisition problem. This may directly relate to their notable underperformance within their respective IQ strata:

In reality, Asperger syndrome is a severe handicap which makes life very much harder than it would be for a person of the same intelligence without the condition. It is always hard to express the severity of a handicap, but a safe guess is that Asperger is on par with for instance missing both legs (not just one) or with being completely blind (not just having very bad eyesight). In any case, the severity of the handicap is underestimated in popular publications about Asperger syndrome. The professional success of some Aspergoid individuals in adult life is deceptive in that it hides the inner suffering of the persons, which is nevertheless revealed by the high incidence of depression and suicide among them.

Paul Cooijmans
Straight talk about Asperger syndrome

I’d personally estimate life outcomes are shifted 30 IQ points in the wrong direction, and perhaps more as aspie IQ increases. I’m getting a bit off topic, but these problems are notable because they are common prerequisites for people who might be considering this advice.

There is also the matter of learning various abstract paradigms through obsessive reading, analysis, and rereading (examples in personality theory: MBTI, astrology, ENP, physiognomy). I’ll pass over this because I think aspies naturally do this better than anyone, and higher psychoticism actually predisposes us to do this even better than otherwise. I can’t say I’ve figured out how to generalize this ability to uninteresting subjects, but I’m not in a big rush either. These things respond best to marathon reading sessions, writing fisk-style commentaries on application, and obsessive reflection and introspection. A productive homework assignment for an aspie may very well be stated as “here is a short op ed- read and fisk it in as many words as you like”.

Reading general and professional dictionaries and encyclopedias (and other reference works) is an interesting course of study all its own. There is the psychotic approach (reading as one is inspired by interest, refreshing memory as necessary for application) and the conscientious approach (reading systematically, reviewing material systematically), both of which may produce a great deal of general knowledge. But neither will tend to produce perfect general knowledge on a subject because the psychotic method is haphazard and the conscientious method is inefficient. This is speculative at this point, but I think a person pursuing excellence should set aside study time for both types. For example, such a person devoted to learning every word in the dictionary might on his first day learn 100 interesting words, followed by the first 100 words starting with the letter A, and so on each day. (Everything I’ve said here applies to the acquisition of useful vocabulary or factoids, or anything else amenable to flashcards.)

Modern textbooks can be understood a sort of mashup between all of these, primarily the explanatory paradigm sort and the practical skill sort (those with exercises, that is). I think this is a mistake- and people who buy books seem to agree, because (as John Taylor Gatto pointed out) you won’t find textbooks in Barnes and Noble. There are real books (ideas, paradigms), and there are workbooks (skills and practice), and there are reference books. The use of these books is straightforward and intuitive, but the common use of textbooks is unsatisfactory because cumulative subjects necessarily follow the inefficient, conscientious method (read chapter, do exercises). Time-efficient study of these materials is an open question, which is unfortunate because they are rather indispensable for aspies to advance any semblance of a career.

About Aeoli Pera

Maybe do this later?
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