What Do Learning And Emotions Have To Do With Each Other? Everything!

Frank Schultheiss – Innovation is change. Change is learning to do something different. Understanding the impact of emotions on learning has experienced a paradigm shift: neuroscience research over the last two decades has reversed the view that emotions interfere with learning. It has been replaced by a new perspective: emotions, thought processes and learning are inseparable.

From a neurobiological point of view, it is virtually impossible to remember anything without emotions. The same goes for complex thoughts or meaningful decisions. (Immordino-Yang 2016)

The question under which conditions our brains learn the best, so that learned things stay in the head, inevitably leads to emotions. Brains save not only learning content, but also the learning context and call it again.

When we learn, we construct reality

Our five senses are virtually constantly surrounded by a flood of data. About one million nerve fibers per eye transmit around one million pixels – up to 30 times per second. The sensory organs and the brain are already filtering to ensure that this flood of data remains manageable for our conscious (R. Meier 2017, p.36).

The data is analyzed, compared with previously learned knowledge and finally evaluated emotionally. What has no relevance is quickly lost again. Thus, long-term memory facts are not just facts, but are embedded in a context of experience and linked to the consequences and outcomes of earlier decisions (Schulze / Kurt, 2017). Learning in this sense means the (re) construction of our individual reality, which we supplement or redesign through perception.

Events that are emotionally important to a person burn themselves into memory. (Jürgen Egle 2017)

Address multiple memory types

The fact that there are several types of memory is not new, but how that knowledge can be used for coaching, teaching, consulting and company practice (R. Meier 2017, p.88).

Content division of the 5 long-term memory forms

1. Episodic memory (experiences, experiences, stories)

2. Knowledge memory (semantic G, factual knowledge, data)

3. Procedural memory (routine actions such as driving, writing)

4. Priming memory (Spontaneous association of perceptions to memories)

5. Perceptual memory (recognition of persons, objects ect.)

Feelings and emotions play a major role in all human memory types (Egle / Schweiger). When we remember something, we do not simply rewind the facts, we reconstruct the facts, phenomena, and events according to our emotional states (episodic memory). The acquired knowledge is practically subject to a permanent reconstruction process.


Learning becomes more successful when different types of memory are addressed and emotional anchors are set. This can be achieved through learning content that is packed into stories with emotional context (episodic memory). The motivation is also significantly influenced by the learning environment. Simulations in which the application of the learning content is experienced in a playful way are another possibility. Lego Serious Play (LSP) is a well-known example. To experience it yourself, to perceive it emotionally and to explain it in facts ensures lasting learning experiences.

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