How long does it take to lose a skill? (2023)

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How long does it take to lose a skill? (1)

Hopes&Fears answers questions with the help of people who know what they are talking about. Today we ask ourselves, when did I become so bad at petanque?

How long does it take to lose a skill? (2)

jared fischer


How long does it take to lose a skill? (3)

nicolet schenk


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At some point in everyone's life, they will return to a trade or skill they once mastered, only to discover it now...not so much. What used to seem effortless now requires tremendous effort for a much less powerful result; our French has become French, our drumming skills are far from satisfactory, our inability to solve a once tractable differential equation is a sad reminder that mathematics still exists. We wonder why this happens and how long it takes. We spoke to educators, engineers, neuroscientists, biomechanics, data junkies, and a Buddhist Dharma teacher to try to break down exactly how long it can take to lose a skill.

How long does it take to lose a skill? (4)

Timothy A. Pychyl, Ph.D.

3M National Teaching Fellow, Director, Center for Educational Initiatives and Associate Professor,Institute of Psychologyan der Carleton University

How long does it takeThe loss of a skill is proportional to the time it took you to learn it. We see this over and over again in our lives with the example of riding a bicycle or playing a musical instrument that we practiced for hours in our childhood. We haven't really lost these abilities, although like our old bikes they do 'rust' a bit. There may be a moment of hesitation when we sit on the bike seat or at the keyboard, but there is muscle memory that takes over. Sometimes we even wonder how we can continue to do this, since we don't really understand how. On the other hand, if we just developed a new ability, it quickly disappears. The neural connections that encode this learning are neither broad nor "deep." We see this all the time in our colleges and universities when students are "preparing for the test" and days later they can't remember the content or demonstrate the skill. It's called shallow learning for a reason, as it's easily erased.

How long does it take to lose a skill? The answer is not that attractive since it depends on the ability. I postulate that some abilities are so ingrained in us that we can still demonstrate them even when disease processes in the brain rob us of our memories and even our ability to remember those around us. Paradoxical, right?

How long does it take to lose a skill? (5)

Dr. Adam Ritter

Associate Professor ofbiomechanicsander state university of mississippi

(Video) A skill that EVERYONE should know!

From the perspective of motor learningOnce a person acquires a skill, they generally do not lose their ability to perform it, unless there is a neurological or musculoskeletal injury or disease. Over time, their ability to perform the skill at a high level or the same level of proficiency that they were when they first learned or mastered the skill will decrease (if they stop practicing the skill), but they should still be able to perform the skill. . The supplementary motor area of ​​our cerebral cortex (brain) is the part that helps build movements based on internal motor memory (many people call this muscle memory, which is incorrect. Muscles can't remember anything, but that is a problem for another day).

For example, when you first learn a motor skill, like riding a bike or playing baseball or softball, your brain has to learn which limbs to use, which muscles to activate, when to turn muscles on and off, how much muscle to force. generate and how to coordinate the movement. With practice, this movement becomes more coordinated and the brain gains better control, and this internal motor memory is strengthened. Then, when you want to perform the skill again, the supplementary motor area can organize the movement based on internal motor memory created from previous experiences. Like everything else, this memory will fade a bit over time, and the longer you take to practice the skill, the less efficient you'll be at performing it. But a person could go several years without riding a bike and still be able to ride based on prior experience and motor memories of performing the skill.

Now it's hard to say how much skill a person would lose in a given period of time. Some people will experience more loss than others, and some people will do better than others when they first try a skill after not practicing it for a long time. There are many factors that go into this, including the person's starting level of experience and their own motor skills.) It makes us unique as human beings; We are all different, but our bodies have an incredible capacity to learn, remember, and adapt.

How long does it take to lose a skill? (6)

Even in the short timein one summer, young minds can lose skills: in math and reading, for example. Therefore, the research supports the need for summer programs: “Most students lose approximately two months of grade level equivalency in math skills during the summer months. Low-income students also lose reading proficiency by more than two months, although their middle-class peers are making modest gains (Cooper, 1996).

Those:National Summer Learning Association

How long does it take to lose a skill? (7)

S. Lee Hong Ph.D.

Former Associate Professor ofPhysiology and Neuroscienceat Ohio State University and current data scientist

it really dependsthe kind of skills we're talking about. There are certain skills, like riding a bike or unicycle, juggling, and swimming, where you fail miserably every time and then suddenly...voila, you can perform the task perfectly. There is no real "I'm a little better" process in between. These abilities tend to stick with you longer. Skills that you can gradually improve tend to fade faster. I think in some ways the abilities that need to be clicked are more likely to stick around. It's not necessarily that languages ​​use a different part of the brain, but more in terms of muscle coordination patterns to produce sounds.

One area that is not hotly debated is how learning different forms of the language can have different lasting effects. For example, tonal languages ​​like Chinese may have different learning and memory rates than Latin languages. Language is a tough question, mainly because languages ​​aren't clickable skills, but clicking your tongue to accurately convey a message will probably stick with you for a lifetime.

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I think the only important thing is that the skills don't expire quickly. And it's not necessarily the case that more difficult skills are retained longer than others. It really is that difference between the abilities that need to "click" that are different from each other.

How long does it take to lose a skill? (8)

Michael K. Gardner, Ph. D.

master theEducational psychologyat the University of Utah

Skills are built through practice.and follow a 'power law' of learning (Newell and Rosenbloom, 1981): the time to perform the skill is equal to a constant multiplied by the number of practice trials raised to a given power. So the time decreases with practice (not surprising), but it decreases more in the early stages of practice and relatively less in the later stages of practice. I have no empirical evidence for the rate at which skill declines, but it is likely a function of the amount of practice (heavily practiced skills are lost less quickly than less practiced skills) and the level of complexity of the skill ( complex abilities with more underlying components are likely to be lost more quickly due to the number of individual components that can be lost).

Perhaps the good news for your readers is that a skill, once established through practice, can be relearned much faster than it was originally learned. Kolers and Perkins (1975) had subjects learn to read pages with reversed text. First, it took participants about 16 minutes to read a page of inverted text. After reading 200 pages of inverted text, reading time for one page dropped to about 1.6 minutes. A year later, they brought the subjects back to the lab. After a year, it took them about 3 minutes to read the first page of the reverse text. So there was some loss of skills over the course of a year. However, it only took 50 pages of inverted text reading for them to return to their previous speed of 1.6 minutes per page. When someone returns to a skill after not using it for years, there is often a relatively brief warm-up period during which the skill is restored and then performance returns to the same level as before.

How long does it take to lose a skill? (9)

Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)it can significantly affect many cognitive, physical, and psychological abilities. Physical deficits can include the ability to walk, balance, coordination, fine motor skills, strength, and stamina. Cognitive deficits in language and communication, information processing, memory, and perceptual abilities are common. The psychological state is also often changed. People with TBI often face disability issues.”

Those: Neurocompetence Center

How long does it take to lose a skill? (10)

Po Chi Wu, Ph.D.

Princeton University, Associate Professor ofmechanical and aerospace engineering

a valuable skillA true passion, eg. B. with musical or sports talent, should never be missed. There are stories of prisoners of war who, after their release, were able to perform [previous skills, tasks] excellently because they managed to train their minds despite years of torture and privation.

These examples lead my thoughts to the power of the spirit. Even in circumstances where the physical practice of skills, e.g. golf, it is impossible, with intense concentration the mind can recreate the brain activity that would accompany the actual muscular activity. This is a twist on the concept of "virtual reality" and is being extensively investigated in Olympic athletes.

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How long does it take to lose a skill? (11)


Buddhist Dharma Teacher, Senior Instructor at Dharmapunx NYC for over 10 years

I would say firstIt depends on the type of skill we are thinking of. I tend to break it down into explicit and implicit skills that can become potentially ingrained habits. For example, we're talking about the ability to ride a bike or swim, which we now know can be maintained by people with Alzheimer's or people with significant cognitive impairment. We also know from the work of Alan Shore that what we learn by anticipating how people will behave, by reading people's body language, and the like, develops during the crucial phase of attachment, between 6 months and 18 months.

All these emotional beliefs, what we might call abilities, are never lost. Don't miss the early attachment training that people give you in the early stages of childhood. For example, a child who grows up in a safe environment where he is accustomed to believing that people are emotionally tolerant and caring will develop this ability to recognize how to be spontaneous, trusting, and aware of the world very early in his explored life. A child who grows up in an environment where people are unreliable, absent, or even abusive will learn to recognize all of these characteristics of humanity very early in life. And those abilities—the hypervigilance, dissociation, and variations that come with that early attachment experience—are never lost, either. In this way, the core emotional experiences that occur before the development of the left hemisphere are not lost.

Intellectual abilities decline steadily and are naturally stabilized by the hippocampus, but over time, even throughout life when we experience times of great stress, the left hemisphere and frontal lobe become essentially overwhelmed by fear impulses from the brain. amygdala, and we make the transition to automatic mode. pilot, actions controlled by the striatum and the hindbrain. Therefore, we do not have the cognitive abilities to represent higher abilities. My emotional skills, which I learned at a very young age, will continue to be effective. I will have the basic expectations of people that I learned very young in life when I am under stress.

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But when I'm under stress, my higher skills, intellectual reflection-based, judgment-based, wisdom, writing skills, and maybe songwriting skills, those skills that take a greater degree of cognitive input, and By cognitive I mean working the rational left. hemisphere, language and all that is lost very quickly when I'm under stress. And as the hippocampus shrinks over the years due to Alzheimer's or just nerve sheath erosion, I'll lose the ability to have or keep the kind of higher skills I developed in my 20s and 30s, skills like understanding some of the deepest concepts of modern science. psychology or neuroscience, things like that.


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