Perhaps it is optimistic to think we can force ourselves to be interested in something, so we can learn it. However, this certainly explains why kids who aren’t interested in a subject really don’t learn anything – like me and French in high school.

It does speak volumes to how an enthusiastic engaging instructor can get much better “results” in terms of student learning and retention – students really want to learn.

Making Our Nerve Cells Learn

We can deliberately activate the circuits (nerve cell connections) that signal something is important. This causes them to pass the message on, to tell other nerve cells that what is happening should be learned well. This happens when something is important to us emotionally.

The brain centers involved in emotions are directly connected to the learning system. When they are activated, they automatically start the teaching circuits (chains of nerve cells). …

We can take advantage of this natural learning booster by believing something is important. If we try to learn without feeling interested, very little of that information will be saved in our memories. But if we force ourselves to treat what we’re learning as if it were vitally important, our brains will join in, and will trigger our learning circuits.

The difference is astounding. When they are not interested, people learn 10 percent or less of what they’re taught. But when we are interested, we remember more than 90 percent!