Your Brain on Repetition

When I was a teenager, I used to bake cookies all the time.  Hard to believe now, as I am continually teased about my poor baking skills, but back then, baking was something I did that comforted me.    There was the occasional mishap like the time I forgot to put in the baking soda and the offending hockey pucks were fed to the family dog, but mostly, the cookies landed on the family breakfast table. I used to make these certain cookies.  They were some plain, coffee dunking cookies that my dad would dunk in his coffee at breakfast.  I baked them so often, I didn’t use the recipe.  I knew them by heart, by feel, by instinct.  I knew this recipe like the back of my hand.  I can still remember some of the ingredients: 6 eggs, 1 1/2 cups of oil, 2 cups of sugar, the zest of one lemon.  For some reason, the amount of baking soda escapes me for the moment. Neither here nor there. There was something comforting, meditative and calming about repeating the same recipe. I liked the predictability. I liked knowing that they were being put to some practical use.  They were a “known” entity. Some public spaces rely on this repetition to reinforce the learning, the familiarity and the invitation to keep returning.  In my own world, I see this played out in the rituals and routines of the Catholic Church, in public schools, even in my bikram’s yoga class. Your brain loves repetition. Your brain loves behaviour. Repeated behaviour is one of the most powerful learning strategies.  It is millions of years in the evolutionary making.  It is one of the reasons why routines are so effective. I think this evolutionary brain hack is underutilized and under rated.  We need to add repetition and rehearsal in our classrooms and homes as often as we can. There are plenty of things that you do by heart, by feel, by instinct. Your routines and rituals. Things you do over and over again. Your hobbies. Your passions. Your day to day practices. What are the ways you can make repetion work for you? Every effort you make to create small repeated behaviours that move you towards your passions and desires is success. In terms of learning, what we do repeatedly wins.