Learning and Memory
The content in this chapter should be relevant to about 14% of all questions about the behavioral sciences on the MCAT.
This chapter covers material from the following AAMC content categories:
6B: Making sense of the environment
7C: Attitude and behavior change
A college student sits hunched over a desk in a quiet library, poring over a small stack of textbooks. It’s 11 p.m. the night before the organic chemistry midterm, and he has what seems to be a near endless list of reactions to commit to memory before tomorrow. The situation seems bleak, but he has been here before and has taken every precaution to make sure that this study session will be successful: he knows that the coffee he’s drinking will keep him awake and that the quiet of the library will reduce distractions and allow him to concentrate. It’s stressful, to be sure, but he has been able to study this way before and do quite well, reinforcing his current set of behaviors. He makes his way through a set of flashcards—reactants on one side, products on the other—and while he is able to identify most of them, he misses a few. He places those cards on a separate pile to be reviewed later. He knows this rehearsal will most likely help him for tomorrow, but will he be able to recall this information again for the final in two months? He takes another sip of coffee and tries to put everything else out of his mind, focusing intently on the information in front of him.
Sound familiar? If you’re like most students, you’ve found yourself in a similar scenario at least once. This chapter will discuss the ways in which you both memorize new information and learn new behaviors. This will not only help you to directly prepare to answer MCAT questions about this content, but also to learn a few new tricks about how to effectively commit all of the MCAT content to memory. This is a skill that will be helpful both now and later in your career as a doctor.