Behavioral change

Most of us love the idea of learning more, but in reality, absorbing new knowledge is usually harder than we expect it to be. As Winston Churchill once said “I am always ready to learn, although I do not always like being taught.” It’s a familiar feeling, you have the desire to master a new skill but when it comes to the work involved in learning and developing that skill you lose focus and get frustrated.

If you’ve ever tried to make a New Year’s Resolution you’ll know how difficult it can be to make a change in your behavior. From the 1st of January you say you’re going to exercise more or you’re going to eat less chocolate. By the 3rd of January you’re making excuses not to go to the gym and you’re reaching for ‘one last piece’ of your favorite bar of chocolate. It happens to the best of us.

The question is why does this happen? It’s because change in behavior is a complex process which requires the disruption of your current habits while creating new and unfamiliar actions. It’s a process that takes time and it certainly doesn’t happen overnight. Let’s look further at what makes behavioral change difficult and how simulation gamification can improve the process.

Around 80% of New Year’s Resolutions are abandoned by February1.


Why is learning important?

Learning is essential if we want to survive and thrive in society. The same way food and water nourishes our bodies, continuous learning nourishes our minds. Learning new things is the key to accessing new opportunities and is an integral part of our personal growth. Through learning we’re able to become happier, more confident and prosperous.

People who work for companies that invest in resources for learning are 83% more likely to feel happier in their job2.

Studies have revealed that learning keeps our brains sharp and healthy. As life expectancy is increasing worldwide, the idea that continuous learning keeps our brains healthy is something that’s important to us all.

Now that we understand why learning is important, let’s look at why we often struggle with focusing on the changes required to retain and use new information.

The human brain prefers to save energy

The brain is made up of thousands of different elements all doing their own thing. Think of it like a large group of experts, all having different skill sets, but working together to make sure you function optimally. Because of this our brains are balancing different needs all the time. To ensure that it doesn’t exhaust itself, the brain prefers efficiency. It would rather not have to change all the time, continuously re-hashing new information. 45% of our daily behaviors are automatic3

As discussed earlier, we know the importance of learning new things. It’s this balancing act between the brain preferring familiarity and us having a thirst for knowledge that is partly responsible for how difficult we sometimes find it to change our behavior and truly focus on the absorption of new information and skills.

The three parts of the brain

Up first is the mammalian brain, this is the co-operative part of the brain. It’s where we store our habits. As the name suggests, we share this part of the brain with mammals. The mammalian is the survival part of your brain. It sends signals to your body to inform your decisions and reactions. It releases hormones like adrenaline into your system to help you deal with different scenarios in order to stay alive.

Then we have the lizard brain, this is the lump near the brain stem that’s responsible for fear and rage. It’s this part of the brain that gives us our fight or flight response. The lizard brain is risk averse and isn’t a massive fan of change. It likes to keep things just as they are.

The neocortex is the modern part of the brain. This part of the brain is where worries come from. It simulates future events and imagines the different outcomes possible. The neocortex is responsible for our language skills and how we make future decisions. It allows us to visualise what could happen to us based on the actions we take. It’s the neocortex that’s the problem solving and planning part of the brain.

All three parts of the brain help us to survive and thrive in their own way. But sometimes they find themselves disagreeing and this is when you might get frustrated with learning skills. As your neocortex fights to solve problems with a thought process, your lizard brain just wants to get the food and run.

Scientists estimate that the modern human brain will hold up to 1 quadrillion pieces of information4.

How does memory work?

There’s two different memory types that power your brain; lexical memory and procedural memory. Let’s explore the difference between the two.

What did you eat for dinner last night?

If you were to be asked what you had for dinner last night, you wouldn’t immediately answer without first thinking about where you ate dinner, the environment you were in, the people you were with, and so on. This is because you use lexical memory to remember scenarios. You use cues and stories to remember what you had for dinner. Lexical memory is where we store words and language.

It’s like riding a bike

The procedural memory is the physical, motor skill part of our brain. It’s where we store skills as opposed to a memory, scenario or word. When you learn to ride a bike, fry an egg, and tie your shoelaces; these memories are stored in your procedural memory.

Common sense, handling pressure, playing chess, or a musical instrument are examples of things you’ll struggle to learn by reading a book. And this is where the problem lies when you try to learn procedural experiences in a lexical way. It’s near impossible to learn feelings and a personal emotional experience from a book. The physical experience is where we get the emotional attachment from.

How behavior has an affect on attitude

It’s hard to imagine now but in 1950s America, smoking was seen as cool, trendy, and was socially acceptable. Fast forward to 2021, our behavior towards smoking has changed drastically. In today’s world we know more about the lasting damage caused by smoking and as a result of smoking bans across the world our behavior changed.

In the UK, 80% of adults were addicted to smoking in the 1950s. Nowadays that figure sits at around 14.1%5. This is the perfect example of how a shift in behavior leads to change. And it’s the same in everyday life. Our attitude towards things greatly influences our behavior. If we’re trying to learn something new and we think it’s boring, this attitude won’t allow us to enjoy the learning experience. As a result, we’re less likely to engage with learning and far less likely to retain the information.


How can gamification help?

Games fill our lives with fun. How can we use games to build a better world?

Gamification can be used as a tool to make boring topics more interesting. With gamification you’re taking game design and elements and using them outside of entertainment.

When using traditional training methods, we’re often told stories to remember things. This kind of knowledge is perfect for sitting exams but it doesn’t last long. Let’s go back to riding bicycles. When you’re taught how to cycle, the skill doesn’t leave you. Skills are mastered and the memory lasts longer.

Why gamified simulation?

Simulation gamification mixes training with gamification. It takes away the emotional barriers of making a real life mistake and you can learn from the mistakes you make without consequences.

Simulation combined with tutoring is the best effect training in the world6.

Using gamification is a natural way for us to learn. It uses culture, creativity, problem-solving, and competition to help people engage more with what they’re learning. It gives people an opportunity to learn in a procedural way. The kind of learning that sticks.

Find out more about how gamification can improve your learning, book a demo with Attensi today:

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  1. This Is The Month When New Year’s Resolutions Fail—Here’s How To Save Them,

  2. 2018-19 Pulse of Talent Retention throughout the employee lifecycle,
  3. 105: Why Habits Are More Important Than We Can Imagine,
  4. 6 simple steps to keep your mind sharp at any age,
  5. Adult smoking habits in the UK: 2019,

  6. Computer Simulations to Support Science Instruction and Learning: A critical review of the literature,