“State-dependent memory, or state-dependent learning is the phenomenon through which memory retrieval is most efficient when an individual is in the same state of consciousness as they were when the memory was formed.” — Wikipedia
In one of the first studies on what was to become “state-dependent learning,” researchers found that goldfish better remember a task they had learned if they are in the same “state” as they were in when they learned it. In the original research, the goldfish were taught that they could avoid a shock if they swam to one area of the aquarium when a light flashed briefly (i.e., signaling a need to move away from a pair of electric grids. If they were intoxicated when they learned the task, they performed better if they were intoxicated when the stimulus light is presented. Similarly, if sober when they were taught the avoidance task, they perform better if they are sober when tested.
This finding regarding state-dependent learning has been validated numerous times and probably explains why a stressed student can struggle to remember important information during a task and be unsuccessful — only to remember ten minutes later on the trip back home once the student begins to relax. Students sometimes ask if they smoke pot while studying, should they smoke some pot before taking a test. I leave it to the reader to answer this question.
By definition, academic coaching clients under-function in academic settings, and state-dependent memory or state dependent learning has something to offer. All students may wish to remind themselves of the importance of being disciplined in their activities in university settings, and, I believe, this is the preferred type of consciousness that is to be re-created.
I suggest to my coaching clients that they be well-rested, focused, self-assured, and optimistic during study and test-preparation and, similarly, that they be well-rested, focused, self assured, and optimistic during performance on tests, during presentations, and during classroom activities. By re-creating the type of consciousness that existed during study, a student is best able to retrieve what has been learned. Because performance sometimes takes place during times of exhaustion, anger, and fear, some training re-creates these situations to facilitate learning. Training for military recruits (e.g., Navy Seals), physicians, and pilots are examples of such training and education under less than optimal conditions.
I suggest that all students review the particulars of state-dependent learning and consider how this research best applies to their own circumstances.
— Andrew J. Billups