Rote Learning

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Rote learning is a memorisation technique based on repetition. The idea is that one will be able to quickly recall the meaning of the material the more one repeats it. This method of learning is also commonly known to hinder critical thinking.

“When the role of rote memorization is an end in itself, instead of a means to an end, rote memorization fails as a building block to critical thinking.”
Concordia University – Portland

I am sure that there are positives for rote learning, if we look at it within a framework for passing exams and learning facts. But that is the exact problem as well – the idea of learning without understanding what it is that you are learning, seems meaningless. Combine this with how the internet is speeding everything up, our need for always-on is making us more and more volatile – with all this constant exposure to repeated information, we might end up losing ourselves in the chaos of data and pace.

One day, while making my way home after a chaotic day at work, I turned to a newspaper for some relief but something clicked in my mind while I was reading it. I looked around and saw everyone else reading the same paper and taking in the same information. I then thought to myself:

How do we really know what we are reading?

It dawned on me, do the journalist’s words convey an accurate (as much as possible) truth? The journalist’s views and thoughts might be filtered by his/her current perspective on the world; starting with filtering from their family and friends; filtered a bit more by the opinions of their teachers during their university or education period; and finally filtered further by their editor and other peers.

You might be able to see a pattern occurring and rote learning feels like a common tool being used to convey what is truth. One’s own idea of truth might be merely a chain reaction of opinions passed down by repetition during one’s lifetime. Take my life for example, I was being told what to do every stage of my life – by my mum, my culture, my teachers, by politicians, by the news, my work peers and my bosses. I’ve constantly been moulded through rote learning every step of the way.

Let’s explore this idea of repetition in the media.


What is really interesting is that, if you pay special attention when you’re watching TV, I noticed that repetition of information happens more often than one realises. Even down to the point that if two TV channels have news on, they are talking about the same news piece and with the same phrases. This repeating method is starting to find it’s way into every corner of television – no matter where you turn, you’ll hear the same words and phrases.



“Repetition is key. The more you hear something, the more subliminal it becomes. If you were told day in and day out that your spouse was cheating, you would probably start to suspect something. So the same goes for other things, as well. If you are told your shoes smell daily, yet you don’t believe it, eventually you will because you are inconveniencing another human, which is something humans don’t like to do.” – Alex Long

Popularity game

Let’s extend this idea into all outlets including social media. We have slowly moved away from a pretty sane and logical path to a somewhat distorted view based on an egocentric ideology of self love.

Love thou self and it will be okay.

This unfortunately has swayed the masses to follow a dystopia view on things. Our emotional intelligence to empathise is thinning and therefore we can’t think clearly – a conflict between heart and mind. The result is reacting to the thing that is most popular amongst our peers to increase our chances of acceptance. Rather than allowing ourselves to think critically about a message, we sometimes react by retweeting, favouriting or liking that message without really understanding or knowing its truth. These reactions can be seen by others as form of emotional engagement: “yes this is a good thing, it must be true, all these people have liked it”. This is repetition on a huge scale that is so hidden it just blends into everyday life without the whisk of a thought about what is it doing to us.

Our methods of critically thinking about the truth has not strengthened with more technology as one would expect the internet to accomplish. Yet almost the opposite, the massive surge of information and egocentric expectations of each other has lead us into a path embracing a lot of nonsense headlines, videos and pictures. The IAMGOD movement is forcing our views on truth and information to be based around popularity. You only have to look at society now, to see that an audience will happily forget about all the people that are killed or tortured by justifying it’s means. In my opinion, it is not okay to kill people in a world of democracy. These justifications happen in a subtle way, being slowly exposed through various forms of media, drip-feeding us to instil these ideas about what is truth in current society. These ideas, ultimately allow us to justify distorted views of what is acceptable: allowing it to carry on or believe as if it’s not even happening.

Effective Frequency

In advertising, the effective frequency is the number of times a person must be exposed to a message before it is absorbed and when too much exposure is considered wasteful. There are many theories regarding the number of repetitions and its effect on the viewer.

One psychologist, Hermann Ebbinghaus, had conducted research in the late 1880s to figure out how people respond to nonsense syllables such as: laip, cigbet, mheet and snepd. He discovered that by repeating these nonsense syllables in short multiple periods, he was able to get people to retain those syllables. He was also the first to describe the terms, primary and recency effects, whereby a person remembers the first and last items of a list and not the middle.

Herbert E. Krugman wrote that there are only three levels of exposure in psychological, not media, terms: Curiosity, recognition and decision. Krugman believed that after they have made a decision on the advert then the viewer “puts it out of their mind” and becomes disinterested in the product/idea no matter how many times they’d be exposed to it thereafter.

Thomas Smith wrote a guide about “Successful advertising” in the late 1880s and his guide is still used today. He mentions that after constant exposure to an advert, the user becomes infatuated with the product/idea. They start to wonder many things like, “what is this stupid thing?!”, “how did they pay for this advert?”, “John, have you heard about this product?”, “Oh I wish I could afford this!”, “I bet it’s really good?”, “I love it!”. You can see how his guide almost relates to how advertising works nowadays. People’s connection with certain products are on deep emotional level – to the point where they defend its presence.

Now, what I’ve learnt about the effective frequency is that if you say the same message time and time again, whether it is something that makes sense or not, it could have two effects on the person:

  1. They acknowledge that the message is true and will end up defending it
  2. They see the message so many times they become desensitised to it

None of the points are useful ways of communicating a message if you are trying to let the viewer be objective. They do, however, allow us to understand by what means we could insert a message into society. If all these messages were written by just a handful of companies around the world, then that same message would be replayed in many different languages, many times over, until it eventually becomes instilled in the viewer’s mind in some form.