We’ve mentioned before the power of “desirable difficulties” – that learning sticks better when learners have to struggle to acquire it. Here’s evidence that some emotional stress during learning improves long-term retention:

Medical students took a hands-on final exam as part of a medical-training research project. As part of the exam, they were required to recall material in
front of an actor simulating a “standard patient.” This experience helped them remember answers six months after training.

Bottom line: Emotional stressors, such as naturally occur in a hands-on environment, are one good way to get learning to stick.

Source: Larsen, D.P., et al. (2012). The importance of seeing the patient: Test-enhanced learning with standardized patients and written tests improves clinical application of knowledge. Advances in Health Sciences Education, doi: 10.1007/s10459-012-9379-7.

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