In our brains we have things called neurons, round cells that grow about 100,000 branches called dendrites and a long root known as axon. This is the stuff of thinking.
Let me expand. Think of a battery that is charged with information that is attached to a wire. The battery is the neuron and the wire is the dendrite that sends signals to the axon. The “electricity” is chemicals called neurotransmitters that jump across a gap (like electricity across tesla coils) called a synapse, to be caught by the dendrites of another neuron, sparking a series of electrochemical reactions. Again, picture batteries and wires lighting up in a pattern; these are the neuronal connections firing together. New perception is integrated into a concept and the cluster of batteries and wires synchronize into corresponding patterns, like a Christmas light display in harmony with TSO – Wizards of Winter (BTW, if you haven’t watched this video it is a must-see).
Anyway, our brains are stimuli vacuums constantly sweeping up as much sensory input as possible, every moment of consciousness, which means that neurons stay in a state of readiness for days looking for the pattern in the stimulus. (I will say more about this later, how this biological process is filtered into the epistemological framework of perception, induction/deduction, concept formation and concept integration.) When a pattern is identified, the neuronal network will fire again, and the interconnecting web becomes more permanent. If the pattern is not identified, the neuronal network decays and the perceptions fade; this is how the brain defrags its hard drive of cluttered files and useless information.
So, big picture, neurons form extraordinarily complex (some 100 trillion), constantly changing connections. And it is through repetitious pattern recognition that those connections are strengthened. This is how we “learn.” When the patterns fade, we “forget.”
Here is the training takeaway.
Adults learn by modifying the neuronal networks already shaped by vast amounts of life experience. If new information does not harmonize with existing information, the structure will need to be revised. The goal is to craft a learning environment that helps the learner see how the new information fits into the old information. The more patterns a learner possesses to hang his proverbial hat on, the better he retains new knowledge.