As proponent of life-long learning, I try to learn a new word every day; I would recommend that everyone do so.
It turns out we can all become smarter, simply by increasing our own vocabularies.
Learned words (like all learned information) pass through the hippocampus, and are stored in long-term memory in various parts of the cortex. There is no single location for long-term memory.
But the really interesting link between vocabulary and intelligence happens in our working memory, which is what we used to call short-term memory.
Working memory is where we solve life’s problems, as well as crosswords and riddles. This process is principally concentrated in the pre-frontal lobe of the cortex, which has limited capacity and limited time to make the connections necessary to retain information. These connections, in turn, come together to form our thoughts, our ideas.
Increasing the number of words in our vocabularies, and making sure we truly understand them, allows our brains to make more of these vital connections more readily.
So, how do we go about it? Any or all of a number of ways, some of which are:
• Reading is a great way to increase your vocabulary, but only if you make a commitment to look up words you don’t know. For a word you might think you know, but can’t provide a cogent definition for, ask yourself what you think it means, and look it up to make sure. Keep a dictionary handy, or have a link to one bookmarked in your browser.
•Notice new words when you hear them, from other people, on television. Don’t try to guess meaning from the context – look them up.
• Subscribe to Merriam Webster’s Word of the Day. Other such resources include Vocabulary.com, the Word a Day Widget, and Magoosh.
What do you do to increase your own vocabulary? Please click here to email me directly – I would love to know your strategies.
Until next Wednesday –