A Few Words on Mental Calibration

In the beginning we learn simply from experience, using basic instincts and forming non-verbal associations. This early learning becomes an automatic and unconscious basis for further learning and a growing consciousness, which allows us to consciously learn skills that are more complex. And so we progress and learn, from conscious practise to unconscious and automatic skills (automaticity).

Automaticity is the ability to do something without thinking about it. It occurs in virtually all overlearned behavior. Overlearned behavior is behavior that has been practiced well beyond the point of “just barely learning it.” As you execute a skilled behavior again and again, it gradually requires less of your attention. Finally it becomes automatic-“second nature”-functioning almost as if it were a built-in reflex. Automaticity frees up resources. If your behavior is automatic, your mind can wander to other things, or you can devote your attention to some other useful task.

Automaticity also makes cognitive components autonomously (independently) active, whereupon they can insert themselves into creative activity. After all, the word automatic means self-executing. It is no coincidence that the ability to improvise skillfully on a musical instrument comes only after long hours of practice…hours that have made the small finger movements automatic, almost instinctive.  __Automaticity

It is an important progression that applies to both motor learning and the learning of cognitive skills: From simple to more complex, from conscious to automatic. If the early years are devoted to seeking out a child’s natural affinities and talents, and to helping the child develop his skills within those natural affinities in a playful — yet skillful — way, a strong foundation for later independent learning can be built.

Useful skills are not easy to learn, and once learned they can be easily lost from disuse. Even skills that are frequently practised can grow sloppy over time, if they are not “calibrated” to high standards.

At the original Al Fin blog, we looked at mental calibration from a variety of perspectives:

Brain Calibration (2006) The brain can be primed for learning difficult concepts, or for practising complex skills.

Emotional Calibration (2006) Our emotions need to be exercised just as much as our muscles and our mental skills.

Internal Brain Clock Calibration (2007) A number of different cognitive skills can be facilitated by temporal calibration using a metronome.

The early years are most commonly wasted by conventional methods of child-raising and education. But since most people are unaware of what is being lost, the current societal decay is allowed to proceed unchecked.

The remedy can best be applied on a child by child basis, although it is possible to speed the process using widely disseminated “primers” of more advanced methods.

The underlying concepts are fairly simple. The application to the real world is quite challenging.

It is never too late to have a dangerous childhood.

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