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NEUROSCIENCE


Curiosity When we are in a state of curiosity we release a neurotransmitter called dopamine. Tis forms part of our reward system and creates an experience of wanting more or wanting to repeat the action that stimulated the release.5 When setting out a learning


environment, leave physical exercises half-planned, for instance masking tape on the floor, or an exotic bag on the table which learners are asked not to open. Use stories that have an element of suspense or a twist and sometimes start a story and leave it suspended, returning to it later. Problem-solving games and exercises that gradually un- fold are effective stimulators of curiosity.


Storytelling When we listen to facts and data being presented there are two main parts of the brain that are activated, Broca’s and Wernicke’s. Tese areas process language input and interpretation which are mainly found in the left hemisphere. Tell a good story, however, and hey presto, we have a neural party! In addition to Broca’s and Wernicke’s, all the sensory cortices are activated which means that when we talk about certain tastes and smells our brains are ‘tasting’ and ‘smelling’ at the same time. When we paint a picture using descriptive words our visual cortex lights up, painting a picture in our mind’s eye. Stories are remembered seven times more than facts and data6


so will naturally enhance learning. Te beauty 18 | may 2017 |


of story is that it is interpreted uniquely by each individual who identifies with it and therefore increases the chances of behavioural and attitudinal change through accountability. For example, it’s much easier to tell a story about something that went wrong because





How can we create an environment


of positive emotion in our learning envi- ronment? Remembering to give specific positive feedback, acknowledging good questions, use of humour, and a good dose of laughter all go a long way. And most of all, make learning enjoyable. When we attach emotion to a learn- ing it’s like a Post-it note for the brain.


A good review of what was learned will help embed learnings and facilitate transfer from short- to long- term memory


of lack of due diligence than to lecture someone on the necessity of performing due diligence. Stories also evoke emotion – another enhancer of learning.


Emotion Emotion strengthens memory, both positive and negative. While we should be careful about our use of negative emotion, we actually remember negative experiences and emotions more strongly as this is related to our brain’s need to keep us out of danger (Evian Gordon 2000).7


So for example, using


stories of things that went wrong as a result of lapses in health and safety will be remembered longer and more effectively than talking about health and safety policy and procedure.


Novelty Tere is a part of our brain (the anterior cingulate cortex) that is on the constant lookout for novelty – remember that, as part of our early evolution, novelty could have meant death (“Oh, look at that lion that’s just turned up!”). Novelty, therefore, produces a slight emotion of discomfort which is actually conducive to learning and retention as the emotion centre of our brain is activated and we become alert and aware. Ways to create novelty in sessions


include doing something that isn’t on the agenda or simply introducing something unplanned. It’s a really good strategy for the early afternoon graveyard shift as you see people sit up and take notice.


Building on existing knowledge Te brain learns in an iterative manner by adding new information to that which is already known. If the new information isn’t novel enough then the most recent information is discarded and the ‘old’ information stays the same. Tis is ex- actly what we don’t want as trainers and facilitators so, in addition to making the new information novel, it’s important to


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