I frequently refer to 'mental scaffolding' when I talk to people about learning -- I'm good at learning, but I don't think it's because I'm in some way inherently more intelligent or capable of absorbing material than other people. I think, rather, that my ability to absorb information is a matter, first, of values: it's easy to remember information that you think is important, and I genuinely believe that all information is meaningfully important and has worth, personally, to me.[1. That's not really true, but it's not true in a way that kind of makes my point: I have an unambiguously unfair, problematic bias against mechanical and engineering knowledge. On some deep, hard-to-untangle level, I think knowing about cars is not important. I think it has to do with traditional expressions of masculinity creeping me out. I believe that it's a consequence of that belief that I can't retain basically any information about how cars work. I could tell you the framerate that several youtube gamers record their videos at off the top of my head, but I couldn't tell you, despite having seen this information several times, either what amount of air pressure is appropriate for my car's tires, or what unit of measurement I would be using to express that pressure.] The second is, like I said, scaffolding. Pre-existing knowledge on which I can hang new facts, so they have a place in my network of understanding. I'm learning about the French revolution in Western Civilization II right now. I'm crap at dates, but I've got a pretty good idea of the order in which historical events took place. So, to remember approximately when the French Revolution happened (and to add context to the rest of my education), when I noticed that the philosophy of the Jacobins closely resembled Hegel's idea of Geist, I asked which came first. (It was the revolution. Apparently Hegel was influenced by it, not the other way around.)
I don't have much of a point to make, here. It's almost 10 at night, and I hadn't blogged yet. This is something I have been thinking about and I didn't want to just write a post about how busy I was today.
If anybody reading this post wants to chime in, with thoughts, questions, clarifications, or notes about what I'm getting wrong in the contemporary understanding of psychology, please feel free.