The Learning Process
Step 3 - Building Concepts
The process of developing a concept from ideas forms the next stage of the Learning Process. By leveraging the prompt we can take our idea that we understand within a particular context and apply that idea to other contexts. By applying the new idea to a number of different contexts we develop a ‘meta-idea’ – and we define this ‘meta-idea’ as a concept.
Once the underlying pattern within a concept has been identified by the astrocytes, our brains identify the trigger and the concept is mapped. This process is almost always accompanied by an “aha!” moment. After establishing the underlying concept, we can begin to make more accurate predictions about how that concept may play out in contexts we may not have yet experienced.
A simple example: We begin to develop the concept of sitting down on a chair when we are between 10 and 16 months old. Developing this concept means that we do not have to learn how to sit down on every possible type of chair – we sit down without consciously thinking because we create a general concept for sitting down and from that our brain predicts and adapts that concept to different types of chairs (contexts).
1. The astrocytes and neurons form a tripartite relationship across millions of synapses and it is this relationship that allows the astrocytes to map the neural patterns that underpin each concept and then automate them.
2. For the concept (pattern) to be mapped, it is necessary to create more astrocytic cells. Stem cells from the gyrus, a small area in the centre of the brain, are released and follow hormone markers to where they are needed to map the pattern underpinning the pattern/concept.
3. The third stage of this process is for the astrocytes to identify the trigger for that concept and then automate that pattern/concept into a non-conscious process, relieving the neurons of being required to consciously process the concept.
This three-stage process increases the efficiency and effectiveness of human thinking dramatically as we are able to carry out most of our day-to-day processes non-consciously, allocating the one conscious thinking process we are capable of to the most unpredictable scenario we are experiencing.
Step 4 - Building Concept Frameworks
When we drive a car we are applying a range of concepts simultaneously in order to be able to drive safely. Many of these concepts are completed without any conscious thinking processes being engaged! Driving can include concepts such as hill starts, 3-point turns, navigating roundabouts, changing lanes, calculating stopping distances, selecting the right gear, giving way … the list is considerable. The combination of all these concepts and the interactions between them are mostly applied non-consciously, and that is nothing short of amazing! This interconnected network of concepts is called a concept framework.
We will use some of those underlying concepts such as judging distance or opening the car door etc. in many other non-driving situations (contexts). Concept frameworks contain a range of concepts, ideas and knowledge that all work together to manage a complex operation. Interestingly, in this emerging model of learning, numerous iterations of each concept are not stored in the brain for each context but rather a single generic concept is stored and re-used when necessary with other concepts that are constructed ‘on the fly’. The brain is extremely efficient.