I’ve previously proposed that the speed at which a person can learn flashcards of nonsense symbols and images is highly dependent on associative horizon, such that we might test for associative horizon merely by controlling for IQ. The yada yada is yonder. Bruce Charlton thought it wasn’t the worst idea of all time.
Well, I’ve determined from practice that I can learn new German words from physical flashcards at a rate of about six per minute, using the free associative method. I am then able to go back through the set (about 50 cards) and, on the first try, recall almost all of the words (between 95-100% success on most trials) at a rate of about 12 cards per minute. It is rare that any cards resist memorization by the 2nd run-through.
Here’s an example of my process, with some data (explanation follows):
A — 11:30 68
B — 6:00 63 – 5
C — 1:10 5 – 0
D — 2:10 68
First, I grab a bunch of new cards out of the set, and start a timer. On line A, you can see that I grabbed 68 cards and it took me eleven minutes and thirty seconds to read through the each card in the stack and make up some absurd, nonsensical free associative trigger that will goad me from the German word to the English translation. For example, “der Zwilling” immediately makes me think “the willing”, and the term means “twin” in English. So I form a quick picture in my head of “willing twins” in a sexual context, and trust that this picture will reoccur the next time I look at the card. Sure enough, I go through the stack and “der Zwilling” comes up again, and my mind immediately brings up the sexy twins, which reminds me that I’m supposed to be thinking “twin”.
On the first run through the stack, line B, you can see that I spent six minutes and got 63 cards right and 5 wrong (not a great showing for me). I form two new stacks as I do this- cards I got correct or incorrect- and count them up afterward, when the stopwatch is no longer running.
Line C shows where I go through the “incorrect” stack and take some extra time to either reinforce the associative trigger or, more likely, come up with a new one that’s more visual, absurd, funny, violent, etc. After this is done, the five cards go back in the correct stack.
Line D shows another run-through. By this point the associative trigger is only necessary for about 20% of the cards, whereas most of them I can recall via simple familiarity (as can be seen in the drastically reduced time spent per card). A very few of them have even made their way into long-term storage, although most of them will be forgotten in a week if they aren’t practiced.
I’ve recently begun to believe that M0 (and thereby white matter overproduction due to dopamine elevation, relative to gray matter production) is partly due to chronically elevated blood sugar. Therefore, it makes a lot of sense that if I want to conscientiously build new white matter, I ought to elevate my blood sugar level. (Vice versa, if I want to reflect, introspect, or read difficult but engaging material, and thereby allow the production of gray matter.) But chocolate was no good for the task, much to my chagrin, because it would spike my blood sugar and associative horizon way above the useful level (destroying all focus), then quickly drop back below the useful level.
And then I realized that I’ve already got a solution for this. Wheat!
So today I made some fancy 5,000-grain wheat toast, applied butter liberally, and this worked quite well for the task of keeping my blood sugar high, but not too high. My blood sugar prior to this was pretty low because it was 5 PM and I hadn’t eaten anything. Just coffee. I’ll be trying this again tomorrow. Who knows, I might even take the opportunity from learning all these words and actually learn to read German too.