The neuroscience of learning

Insights from neuroscience can be applied in the way learning is designed, developed, and delivered.

Learning how the brain works will help us create better, more effective training for our people.

This was the key concept underlying a talk by Christian Chao, Senior Vice-President of Learning and Development at UOB, during the 2018 Learning and Development (L&D) Conference.

The event took place on July 3 and 4 at the One Farrer Hotel & Spa.

Chao pointed out the four brain chemicals that influence happiness, and which can influence the efficacy of a learning and development programme. Dopamine, for instance, is involved in pleasure, reward, and motivation. When high amounts of dopamine are produced, it creates feelings of enjoyment, and helps people remember what they’re learning. Conversely, when dopamine is low, a person is more likely to feel lethargic and unenthusiastic about learning.

Putting this in an L&D context, Chao suggested that gamification could be one way to help trigger dopamine in employees, and make for more effective L&D tools.

Meanwhile, serotonin is a brain chemical that is believed to regulate a person’s emotional and mental state. It is also thought to impact aspects such as memory and sleep, which can in turn have a knock-on effect on a person’s ability to learn. Triggering serotonin is as simple as getting employees to take part in a quick class exercise or stretching, or to even just situate it in a comfortable, fun environment – “make it hospitable,” as Chao said.

Other key learning-related brain chemicals include oxytocin and endorphins; and these can be elevated by incorporating social learning, and challenge or competition components.

Chao also highlighted the company’s “Leadership Right By You” approach to leadership development, and how his team takes a emotive approach to get people on board.


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