The Acquisition Hypothesis

This is the Acquisition Hypothesis:

When considering what someone should know, it is vital to simultaneously consider how they will come to know it. How we learn determines what we learn.

Often when someone acquires some information in one context they are unable to access it in another. This effect means that if you have learned some fact by memorizing it for a test, you may not be able to access it when it applies to some other problem you face in your life. This effect also underlies the common capability that people have to hold one belief in one context but a conflicting belief in a different context. Knowing a fact is quite different than being able to use that fact.

Information needs to be grounded in some reality in order to be really useful but cannot be so grounded if it hasn't been acquired in terms of that reality. To understand new information well, students must link the information with what else they know. Students must generalize the information, but they will not make generalizations unless they have a need to do so. But memorization does not create such a need. Only when they are trying to do something with a new fact will students build generalizations from it.

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