Cognitive levels are a measurement of how instinctive a topic or skill is to a given person; the lowest cognitive levels indicate something very instinctive, while a high cognitive level requires serious effort to use or understand, because the brain has to translate it to lower cognitive levels, sometimes requiring several translations, before it becomes instinctive.

What cognitive level a topic or skill is depends on the person in question, but many, especially academic ones, are almost by definition at very high cognitive levels, making them hard to learn and use.

Reducing or 'collapsing' cognitive levels is a very effective way to make something much simple to learn, whether you are a teacher or student. In theory, nuclear physics or macroeconomics can be learned in ways, that make them entirely instinctive. Certain evidence points at some of historys Great Minds having collapsed cognitive levels within their prospective fields either by accident or through unique discoveries.

Cognitive levels can collapse on their own within the mind of someone using a topic or skill on a regular basis; the brain has a tendency to create its own short-cuts when working a lot with something. Thus, an experienced economist will be able to draw conclusions from economic data almost by instinct. During his career, he has seen so much of this sort of data, that his brain has become used to jump from certain observations to their proper conclusions (sadly, this can also occur with wrong conclusions, effectively hard-wiring flawed thinking into the brain). However, this takes quite some time to achieve, because it is a by-product, not a conscious goal.

Artificially collapsing the cognitive level of a topic requires someone with knowledge of the topic. A person learning from textbooks or the like can do it without assistance, but it requires some extra effort. In any case, the most basic method is to create simulations of the topic, usually visual ones. A good example is Genetics: The ability to understand the workings of DNA can be very complicated if only read or taught orally. However, by creating a visual simulation, in which the learner sees DNA and other molecules perform their tasks, several cognitive levels are collapsed, because the brain need only observe things seen; molecule A passes the DNA at point B, changing to molecule C, etc. Even if the simulation is not a true reproduction of what happens, the use of sight rather than text (which needs to be translated several times to become something natural for the brain) will collapse several cognitive levels. Later learning can build on this more instinctive knowledge of genetics, as per layered learning.

Games, which allow a learner to both see and control things happening are equally good ways to collapse cognitive levels. When building on this knowledge, the brain will be working with a game, not abstract concepts, and games are more 'real' than abstract concepts, thus making them more directly understandable to the brain. In spite of this, the learner will be able to apply the knowledge to solving problems like chemical analysis or demographic predictions. Just imagine the consequences, if games like Monopoly turned out to teach usable skills in stock market investment!

The latest addition to methods for collapsing cognitive levels is the use of storytelling. A story is told, in which things are named using terms from the topic being taught. The actions undertaken in the story emulate interactions found in the topic. A (fictive) story could be "The atom goes to town", in which an atom does things and experiences things, which match what is taught about atoms in nuclear physics. While this may sound childish, it is a method applicable in preschool as well as corporate training programs.

In spite of all the fancy words and academic theory, the basic premise of collapsing cognitive levels is very simple: Create something, which is very natural to use, and make it represent concepts of something very complicated.

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