Monday, October 19, 2009

Say What?

Every year, at least one of my kids takes a test in school to determine what type of learner he is: auditory, visual, kinesthetic, musical, televisional (that's when a person can only do homework in front of the TV) or whatever. They discuss the results for a while, and then the class goes out for recess to hurl playground balls at each other as hard as they can.

I don't have to take any test to know what kind of learner I am (besides slow). I am a visual learner, without question. If something is written down--on a chalkboard, in a book, in a manual, on a bumper sticker--I can grasp the information and file it away in the proper memory bank. If not, well, let's just say some stuff "falls through the cracks."

Luckily, my wife knows this about me. In a social situation, she'll stay by my side, absorbing whatever it is that people are telling me, just in case I need that information later. Names? Not a clue. Occupations? Beats me. Details about their sick in-laws? What in-laws? If she's not with me, I try to cope by smiling and nodding my head a lot. What I'm really doing is wondering what's all the yak-yak noise interrupting my daydreaming.

In a business situation, I'm eternally grateful to the person who invented business cards. I may forget everything someone says, but at least I can refer to him or her by name with a quick downward glance at the card cupped discreetly in my hand. I'd be lost without nametags at conferences, too. (Women, I'm not being inappropriate; I'm simply staring at your nametags.)

I'm like the dog in that Gary Larson cartoon, who hears his master's commands as "Blah blah blah, Ginger, blah blah blah, Ginger, blah blah blah." (Except for the "Ginger" part.)

I've always been this way. In college, I'd sit in the back and do crossword puzzles while the professors lectured, stopping every so often to copy down a formula from the board. Good thing I never had to pass oral exams.

Sometimes I'll get off the phone and not remember any of the details of the conversation. I guess I need to start "recording calls for quality control purposes."

My inability to "process auditory signals" is why I don't stop and ask directions. "Blah blah blah. Right. Blah blah. Gas station. Blah blah. U-turn." It's too embarrassing to ask people to write them down for me. (Note: The directions don't have to be words--I'm quite good with maps and patterns. Just as long as people aren't describing them verbally.) (Another note: My reticence to ask for directions has absolutely nothing to do with the fact I'm male, and it's a crushing blow to my ego to admit I'm lost. Nothing whatsoever.)

I wonder if this, uh, little quirk is partly responsible for me becoming a writer instead of an actor or singer or politician (aside from an overwhelming lack of talent in those arenas, of course).

How about you? How do you learn most effectively?



Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

I always took a lot of notes in college, but I never really had to look at them, unless it was a class I was really bad at (Algebra.) As long as I was listening and reinforcing it on paper, I was okay.

Odd. I haven't really thought about this, but I'm also one of those people who can hear other people's conversations all around me when I really just want to listen to whomever I'm with.

Maybe I'm a screwed up learner! Or a dedicated eavesdropper?

Mystery Writing is Murder

Galen Kindley--Author said...

Had to smile at the "sitting in the back of the class and doing crossword puzzle" line. I did Hangman. We were both word people. I clearly remember this from freshman Calculus. That was so long ago that, at the time, Caculus was considered a new science! Anyway, that little trick—along with other indolent behaviors, earned me a ticket to Vietnam…thankfully, it was roundtrip. I’d like to think I have some kind of learning pattern, but, after 60 years, I don’t know what it is. I suspect I simply don’t learn things in the traditional sense, but know how to avoid trouble…maybe that’s even better.

Best Regards, Galen

Imagineering Fiction Blog

Anonymous said...

Alan - A lot of people are visual learners like you. They process best what they can see, and often have difficulty if they're asked to remember what they've heard. Howard Gardner did some interesting and groundbreaking work on the way we think and learn. He developed the concept of multiple intelligences. That's the theory that we all know and learn in different ways. Some of us learn visually, some learn through doing things, some have musical knowledge and so on.

If Gardner's right, then it makes sense that you've got a lot of visual intelligence and that's what you prefer to learn. I think most writers have a lot of linguistic intelligences, too, which explains why writers love words.

Unknown said...

Alan! OMG you are just too funny! Once again, you take a mundane topic and I'm ROFLMAO!

I too, love that cartoon - blah blah blah...With me, it's names. On one hand, I have no problem at all simply stating, "I'm sorry, I'm terrible with names...what is yours again?" But it's become a "thing" with me - something I've been very proactive about for the past several months. I try to think of something - a characteristic, someone else I know - anything that will help me to remember that name!

Thanks for another entertaining and Welcome to Another Week Monday post!

Elspeth Futcher said...

Here's another member of the best-learned visually club. I admit I didn't have too much trouble in university, but I was a rabid note-taker. My only problem (which still makes me shudder in horror) was an economics prof I had in 1st year who would say "now to explain this algebraically..." and I was lost.

I must be okay with words; I've memorized thousands of lines when I was acting. (unfortunately I also memorized everyone else's as well)!


Alan Orloff said...

Elizabeth - Ah, you probably aced all your courses. Funny you should mention eavesdropping. I never seem to have a problem retaining info when I'm doing that!

Galen - Avoiding trouble is an excellent survival skill--glad to see you've mastered it. I'm not so sure I was a word person back then--all I took were math, science, and engineering classes. And bowling.

Margot - Yes, Gardner and his MI work. Nice to see there's an academic in the crowd. BTW, I'm working on a new kind of "intelligence" - couch potato intelligence. Requires fresh batteries in the remote and a full bag of chips.

Crystal - I am so bad with names. I might try your method of associating a characteristic with a persons's name, but I'm afraid I'll end up calling someone Mr. Hairy Wart on the Chin.

Elspeth - We could have club meetings. Unfortunately, we'll probably forget the names of our fellow club members!

Anonymous said...

I'm a very vusial person, so observation is one way. Repetition is another as I am not always the brightest crayon in the box when it comes to interpreting what I have observed.

Stephen Tremp