the building blocks of transformation

The One Hour Rule.

When you look around our site you'll discover a specific structure for learning designed to promote ten times the transformation as typical models. One reason for this approach is an amazing discovery called the "One Hour Rule" of memory.

This one-hour rule is based on an experiment conducted in the late 1890's by German psychologists George Muller and Alfons Pilzecker. To begin the experiment, they asked a group of people to memorize a list of nonsense words. The next day, they tested the group and found that all could recall the list.

"The researchers then conducted the same experiment on another group of people," writes brain expert Nicholas Carr, "but this time they had the subjects study a second list of words immediately after learning the first list. In the next day's test, this group was unable to remember the initial set of words.

"Muller and Pilzecker then conducted one last trial, with another twist. The third group of subjects memorized the first list of words and then, after a delay of two hours, were given the second list to study. This group, like the first, had little trouble remembering the initial list of words the next day.

"Muller and Pilzecker concluded that it takes an hour or so for memories to become fixed, or 'consolidated,' in the brain. Short-term memories don't become long-term memories immediately, and the process of their consolidation is delicate. Any disruption, whether a jab to the head or a simple distraction, can sweep the nascent memories from the mind."1

It took neurobiologists a century to understand the science behind Muller's experiment: that long-term memory is literally "grown" in the brain. Long-term memory is the result of new branch connections between brain cells, a process that requires brain food and enough time for these branches to grow. Our mind is more botanical than mechanical. More like a plant than a computer. Memories grow in the mind only with time and cultivation.

What does this mean? Learning must be spread out and reinforced to be effective. When we try to learn too much in too little time, we lose it all. Cramming doesn't work. Neither does back-to-back seminar or classroom sessions. Without a distributed learning approach that reinforces learning with experience, the likelihood is that what we want to learn will go in one ear and out the other.

1Nicholas Carr, The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 2010), p. 183-4.