Children by the nature have a brain that is still developing, they are ready to explore and learn about their environments and any other thing that come that way. They are inquisitive, and always ready to know, understand and acquire new knowledge.
Children have minds that are designed by nature to learn while adults have minds designed to perform.
Do kids actually learn faster than adults?
You can’t teach an old dog new tricks, so the saying goes. Does this explain why children learn faster than adults?
Your answer to this simple question which we will love to see in the comment section will depend on a lot of factors ranging from your perception, your job description your experience with kids, your area of study, specialization and so on.
However irrespective of the factors that influence our response to the question above, the answer can only be yes or no for individual reasons.
Yes, children learn faster than adults:
Many will say that children are faster learners. However, why children learn faster than adults may be because children have fewer responsibilities, have more time, are not afraid to make mistakes and are exposed to a wider spectrum of things in their environment.
They are exposed to different subjects, different learning styles, different games, sports and extracurricular activities. All these might explain why children learn faster than adults.
Furthermore, adults are less likely to accept corrections because they feel they know it or they have learnt what they need to know, while a developing child is always ready to learn more.
No, adults learn more quickly:
Many other people will also believe that adults learn faster than children, their reasons may range from the fact that adults have the ability to study, learn new knowledge and also build on previous knowledge. Unlike kids, adults filter what they learn based on interests and needs.
Adults don’t have the leisure of learning anything that comes their way and is not exposed to different extracurricular activities or games.
The reason for the above limitations or differences between kids and adults may not be a result of choice but the responsibilities that accompany adulthood.
How do children learn?
As stated earlier children by default are designed to learn continuously and rapidly. They learn from their environment, society, peers, school, family and so on. Children’s ability to learn depends on their age, thus they can learn at a pace appropriate for their age.
In a recent ‘learning trap research, published in the journal Cognition adults were found to make conclusions faster about things while children tend to explore and gather more information.
This finding may also explain why children learn faster than adults. In the research, a model was created which tested the kid’s and adults’ ability to fall into a learning trap. children were found to be more resistant to learning traps due to their exploratory nature.
For instance, the kids and adults were exposed to a two-dimensional rule game. The role was to decide which box to add to a machine and get points. Some boxes will earn points while some will result in a loss of points.
Suppose one chooses a red plain box and you get two points, then you try a black-spotted box and lose four points. Adults will rapidly conclude that red plain boxes are good while spotted boxes are bad. Subsequently, when they encounter a red-spotted box they avoid it also.
Thus the adult will assume a simpler one-dimensional rule and fall into the learning trap. These characteristics of the adult are based on the evidence, and also avoidance of risk and self-preservation.
A child will likely try out all the boxes and will eventually discover that the plain black box and red-spotted box are good while only the black-spotted boxes are bad. Because of their higher risk-taking behaviour, they will get the two-dimensional rule accurately but will lose more points. Does this attribute explain why children learn faster than adults?
How do adults learn?
Adults learn in different ways. Their learning is dependent on their interest and needs. An adult who does not need knowledge of painting even if the opportunity presented will not likely be interested, because they believe that they do not need that knowledge and thus it is a waste of valuable time.
Adults stayed focused on a particular task of interest. They don’t just internalise whatever comes their way.
A scientific explanation of why children learn faster than adults
Scientists have some explanations/hypotheses why children learn faster than adults, these scientific explanations are stated below.
- Scientists say that the human brain undergoes some changes with age. These degenerative changes lead to the loss of the neurons in the brain that control memory. Getting adequate sleep, exercise, a healthy diet and a good lifestyle will help slow down these changes.
2. Children learn faster than adults because the brain’s prefrontal cortex, which controls short-term memory and other functions such as speech and language, is more developed in adults than in children.
Some scientists believe that the developing prefrontal cortex in children gives them a greater ability to be flexible and as such learn new things.
3. The human brain exhibits more plasticity, during the early stages of brain development. This they say gives children the unique ability to absorb everything around them such as language. Adults can learn a new language later in their life but this will require more time, energy and effort.
4. Researchers claim that the young brain has a more dynamic structure than that of an adult, they said that the 2-year-old child has about twice the brain connections of an adult.
These increased brain connections give the child the ability to easily absorb information. As the child gets older the brain decides which information to store and the rest is cut off.
Key reasons why children learn faster than adults
An array of factors play a role in children’s ability to learn faster than adults. Some of the reasons why children learn faster than adults are the following;
- Lack of time
One major factor why children learn faster than adults is lack of time. Children have little or no responsibility and as such have all the time to explore, learn and develop new skills and abilities.
2. Fear of mistakes
Another factor why children learn faster than adults is the phobia of mistakes and errors. Childhood is the period to make all your mistakes and learn.
Adults are sceptical about making mistakes as such are unlikely to explore, their prudence might protect them, but sometimes may prevent them from understanding and acquiring new knowledge.
3. Short burst of focus
Another possible factor why children learn faster than adults is their ability to focus on the missing piece of information for a short period of time. When a child comes across a new thing, they will focus on it until they understand it.
Also read: 20 ways to stay focused and get the work done
4. Memory space
Learning is a process of accumulation of information, as new knowledge is acquired older or previously acquired knowledge is moved deeper into the brain and maybe eventually lost.
A child’s brain is like a new memory card that is empty so a lot of the things they learn are at their fingertips. This might explain why children learn faster than adults.
Research supports the theory that children have a higher tendency to explore than adults, and by so doing gain more understanding and knowledge more rapidly than adults. This exploratory behaviour might explain why children learn faster than adults.
I believe that the ability to learn is not dependent on childhood or adulthood but is purely an individual trait. It also depends on your environment, personality, motivation, resources and life experience.
Learning is a spectrum that changes from childhood to adulthood. The increased risk appetite and exploration of childhood give room to the reduced risk appetite and prudence of adulthood. I believe this was designed to create a natural balance.
Do children actually learn faster than adults? let’s know your thoughts or opinion in the comment section below.