The topic of today is learning itself. Many people have negative associations with learning. They don’t like to go to school, they don’t like cramming all night to pass an exam, and so on. That’s a shame, because learning is so much more than going to school and studying for exams. It actually has many positive aspects that people tend to overlook. In this article we are going to take a closer look at learning, and find out why people actually have a love of learning deep down inside. This is called being a philomath, philomaths are people that love to learn.
First take a look at the following video. You might have already seen this before, it’s a video of a baby putting glasses on, and seeing it’s parents for the very first time. Pay close attention to the baby’s reaction.
The baby looked so happy didn’t it? It’s hard not to feel joy yourself when you see something like this. Just the baby’s pure pleasure of seeing its parents clearly for the very first time. But you have to realize here, that the baby is learning something here. It is learning how it’s parents look like, that’s just simple visual information right there.
I also have a personal story related to this, when I was young there was this moment where I saw that it was snowing outside for the very first time. My mom told me that I was sitting behind the window just staring at it for a really long time. I must have been so fascinated by it. Nature is actually really interesting and beautiful, we tend to forget that sometimes.
Evolution of Learning
In stories such as this we can see this kind of inborn tendency for human children to be interested in the environment. This also makes sense from an evolutionary perspective because you must understand the world as best as you can to survive in it. Our ancestors who didn’t learn from the environment died, and only those who learned well survived.
Let’s say you’re some animal and you eat a plant that makes you sick. Next time you encounter this plant you will avoid it. You have learned that it is not good for you. Most animals learn in this way to survive, and of course us humans do as well. You probably know that you shouldn’t touch things that are very hot, like fire. At one point or another, you burned yourself for the very first time, and since then, you learned that you shouldn’t touch these things because it will give you pain. If you didn’t learn this you would touch hot things all the time and eventually get yourself killed.
So, human babies are born with this innate tendency to learn about the environment because it is useful to them, it prevents them from dying and it has done this for many generations, like millions of years.
Forms of Learning
Now, as babies grow older what do they start doing? What is the number 1 activity that distinguishes children from grownups? That is of course: play. Children tend to play a lot, while grownups then to do that a lot less. But what is playing? Have you ever stopped to think about what play actually is and why we do it.
I shall reveal something now that may be a bit surprising to a lot of you. Play is actually a form of learning. Play has been defined as behavior with no particular end in itself, but an activity that improves performance in similar future situations. So, play actually prepares you for things that might happen in the future. This is not only with humans but also other animals. For example, cats are well known to enjoy playing with balls of string when they are young, this actually trains them to catch prey when they are older. So playing with string is like pretend hunting for cats.
Playing is an activity that is very costly for animals. It costs a lot of energy which could be spent on stuff that helps them survive directly, like finding food. Also, during play animals are at risk to get injured. Playful behaviors would not have evolved if they did not provide significant gains, besides the cost. Play is very useful to learn certain skills, and can even increase physical fitness. Just think about doing sports. It is basically playing around with a ball or something, but it also makes you more fit.
So, we all know that human children just love to play. And we all know that play is super duper important for a child’s development. It needs access to play otherwise it may develop all sorts of psychological or physical issues when it is older. This stuff we know, but what we tend to forget is that play is a form of learning. That is one of the main reasons why people love to learn deep down inside. Everyone loves to play, even adults, and play is a form of learning. Therefore, people love to learn.
There are some forms of learning, however, that not many people enjoy. Not a lot of people enjoy formal learning, which is the way you learned at school. There are in fact 17 different types of learning. In an upcoming article we will explain all the different ways in which you can learn.
The conclusion in the end is that you shouldn’t think that you dislike learning because you didn’t like studying for school. That is just one, very specific form of learning, and learning is much broader then that. It encompasses play, but also things like informal learning. This is for example when you meet up with friends and just exchange information about things you are interested in, for example about your hobby. This is also a type of learning that people enjoy doing, no one gets paid to meet up with friends and exchange information, they just do it because it is pleasurable.
So, in the end, when we look at babies and young children, we see that they have this innate tendency to learn about the world, and that they derive pleasure from this. They love many forms of learning, like play, informal learning and associative learning. All kids have this innate interest in learning, because it is very useful for them to survive in the environment. Some people just get scared away from learning, because of formal learning, and that is a shame. They might get so scared that they never return to learning again, and who knows what kind of stuff they could have accomplished if they remained on the natural learning path.
So, everyone loves to learn deep down inside, we are born this way. This love of learning has a name by the way, it’s called a philomath. Philo is the Greek word for love, and math comes from the Greek word mathē which means learning. So it means love of learning. Everyone is born a philomath, only some of them remain as an adult. But some people grow a dislike for learning as they grow older, and become the opposite of a philomath. The word for someone who dislikes learning doesn’t even exist. So in this article we will create that word. Miso is the Greek word for hate, so if we put miso together with math we get misomath: someone who dislikes learning. So, are you a philomath or a misomath? Let us know in the comments.