Depth of

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Depth of processing 

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Depth of Processing
The secret is to get deep and meaningful

There's a very famous theory in cognitive psychology put forward by Craik and Lockhart in 1972 that goes like this. The way you process (or think about) a stimulus (such as a word) will affect how well you remember it later. The deeper the level of processing, the better your recall later on.

For instance, say you're trying learn a list of words. (I know this never happens in real life, but bear with me for a second.) The theory goes like this. When you only pay attention to the superficial characteristics of a word (such as whether it is printed in bold or italics), it's unlikely you'll remember the word very well later on.

On the other hand, if you pay attention to the deeper characteristics of a word (such as its meaning), then you are more likely to remember it later. There's quite a bit of psycholinguistic evidence in support of the Depth of Processing theory, starting with Craik and Tulving's classic 1975 study (or you can download the original 2.2MB pdf here).

How does this apply to learning Japanese? 

Good question. Think about it. Learning Japanese requires you to process a lot of very novel information. How you process that information will determine whether you remember it later on or not.

Now, thanks in part to the influence of Confucianism, learners of Japanese are often seduced into learning by rote. Rote learning is where you try to remember something by repetitive drills rather than by understanding it. I'm sure we've all been tempted at one stage or another to try to learn a kanji by writing it out a million times and then be deflated when we can't remember it a week later.

Why is rote learning so ineffective? Craik and Lockhart would say it's because it involves only superficial "surface level" processing. You might say, how the hell do you "understand" a kanji? (One answer to this might be Heisig.) How do you "get deep and meaningful" with vocab?

My aim with this website is to introduce you to potential answers to these questions. Hopefully making habits of any insights will help you make leaps and bounds on the way to Japanese fluency.