Skip to content

5 common learning myths — do you know them?

    The process of learning is complex and multi-faceted, and it can be difficult to know what information is accurate and what is not. In this post, we will be discussing some of the most common misconceptions about learning that are circulating in the learning world today. We will explore the facts and dispel the myths to help you gain a better understanding of how to optimize your learning.

    1. People have different learning styles

    5 common learning myths — do you know them?

    The idea of “learning styles” suggests that individuals have preferred ways of learning, such as visually, auditorily, or kinesthetically. However, research in neuroscience, education, and psychology has consistently found little or weak evidence to support the effectiveness of matching teaching materials to individuals’ learning styles. Experts in these fields have also expressed skepticism towards this approach.

    2. It takes 10,000 hours of intensive practice to achieve mastery of complex skills

    5 common learning myths — do you know them?

    Journalist and author Malcolm Gladwell popularized the 10,000-hour rule, which is based on research from psychologist Anders Ericsson and claims that 10,000 hours of deliberate practice is sufficient to achieve mastery in any field.

    However, research suggests that practice alone is not enough to become an expert and that the number of hours required varies depending on the field. A study by Princeton University found that the 10,000-hour rule only applies to fields with stable structures and unchanging rules, such as tennis, chess, or classical music. In fields with less stable structures, other factors beyond practice are necessary for mastery.

    3. We only use 10 percent of our brain

    5 common learning myths — do you know them?

    The notion that people only use a small portion, typically 10-20%, of their brain’s capacity has been widely popularized, even in recent Hollywood movies such as Lucy and Limitless. This theory suggests that unlocking this unused potential could lead to extraordinary abilities.

    However, this idea is a persistent myth, and the scientific consensus is that we use most of our brains throughout our daily lives. The origins of this myth can be traced back to a self-help book from the 1930s, where a Harvard University professor was misquoted.

    4. People remember only 10% of what they read… but 90 percent of what they do or teach others

    5 common learning myths — do you know them?

    The “learning pyramid” theory, which suggests that people remember different percentages of information based on how they learn it, has been debunked for many years. However, it is still widely believed and referenced by educators and learners.

    The pyramid claims that people remember 10% of what they read, 20% of what they hear, 30% of what they see, 50% of what they see and hear, 70% of what they say and write, and 90% of what they do or teach others.

    However, this theory has never been scientifically proven and the percentages are not based on any evidence. The origin of the pyramid and numbers is unclear, but researcher Will Thalheimer suggests that the use of scientific language may have contributed to its widespread acceptance as fact.

    He states that “people do not necessarily remember more of what they hear than what they read. They do not necessarily remember more of what they see and hear than what they see. The numbers are nonsense and the order of potency is incorrect.”

    5. Learning gets harder as you grow older

    5 common learning myths — do you know them?

    Many adults believe that their ability to learn new things diminishes with age and that they can’t acquire new skills. This is a myth, and it is time to dispel it.

    Research has shown that the brain remains plastic throughout adulthood, meaning that older adults are just as capable of learning as younger adults. Many older adults are eager to continue learning and expanding their knowledge but are often excluded from educational opportunities because of the assumption that they are not capable of using technology. It is important to remember that older adults can, and will, learn new things if given the opportunity.

    By recognizing and dismissing common misconceptions about learning, you can improve the way you approach your learning. Being informed about these myths allows you to make more informed choices and better support your learning journey.

    Want to check if you remember what you just learned?

    Take a quiz on this topic!

    Need advisory or consulting? Contact us!