The Science of Learning with Stress and Fear

The reason why we remember specific moments or movies is because they have been stored in our memory under the influence of emotions. When we win or fail, cry or celebrate, we learn fast, deep and plenty. But when we are afraid our brain limits our ability to think, for a good reason. Fear is an emotion induced when we face a threat to our physical or psychological well being. It causes a change in brain and organ functions and ultimately in our behavior first we get stressed or aggressive, then we are left with three final ways out: freeze, fight or flight. The reason for this is evolution. Over the last million years, we learn that when we meet a dangerous animal, we better freeze, fight or run and hide. To save our life this is now programmed in our genes. But something else happens. When it gets dangerous a specific region of our brain, the Amygdala, takes over. Its job is to protect us and save our life. To act fast it refrains us from thinking and leaves us only with those three options. This makes creative and critical thought processes impossible. High pressure triggers a similar response. In one experiment, German neuroscientist Prof. Dr. Huether measured the brain function of young men playing a car racing game. The race was on and the men eager to win. When the researchers later looked at the scans of the brain they saw shockingly little activity. In fact, the young men hardly used their brains at all and they certainly didnt remembered much. Later the researchers repeated the experiment. This time they did not play the game themselves but just watched from inside the car sitting next to the driver. Instead of focusing to win, they focused on a lot of other things: driving behavior, the race track, other cars. This time the brains showed lots of activity Learning happened and memories were created. The scientists concluded that when we panic at a math exam or when a salesmen fears to miss his monthly target, it can create a tunnel vision. Then our vision field becomes smaller, our learning limited and we cannot find the road to success. Next time when you are stressed to perform or when you panic during an exam, try this quick fix. First slowly breath in through your nose. To do it slow enough, count from one to five. Then breath out through your mouth, again counting to five. Repeat that for 1-5 minutes and your body will relax your brain can switch from protection mode back to a learning mode. What is your personal experience? Do you think we should apply pressure and push for a goal in order to maximize our learning? Or do you think we should free our minds from pressure and goals? Please share your thoughts in the comments below! Thanks for watching! Even if we try to keep it short, each video is quite some work. First we research and write a script. Then we brainstorm ideas. And after that we draw the storybook. Then it’s recorded, narrated and finally edited. If you want to support us to make more videos on Learning and Education, visit

100 thoughts on “The Science of Learning with Stress and Fear”

  1. I believe that one must fix the goals by making a daily routine for each and every day.But at the same time,one should take short breaks in between the working hours to stop overstressing the brain.It's like using the ping-pong theory which is discussed in one of the previous videos for learning something effectively.

  2. Thank you team Sprouts, that I now feel drastically better about this crucial situation I have been trapped in which not thinking over and over could made possible but surprisingly this video. Not makes much sense, I know; but I'm thanking you in this vague way because I really appreciate it 🙂

  3. I think that goals are important to having a fulfilling life. Trying to not have goals will just drive you mad. Every little thing that happens becomes more relevant since you have nothing in particular to look forward too and you wind up highly stressed by the most trivial things. But if you have goals that you commit yourself to you don't have to feel so strongly for anything that is irrelevant to your success for your goals.

    This primitive response is only useful for short-term dangers, not long-term dangers such as failing to succeed at a goal. Remind yourself of that and learn through focusing on your breathing and posture and by practicing meditation to shut down or at least reduce the amygdala response when it isn't helpful. Think things through far in advance so that you can remind yourself that you have plenty of time and so there's no point in feeling afraid as long as you stay on task. Slow and steady wins the race. Slow yourself down so you think more and flesh out a problem for the best solution.

  4. Free our mind 😃 instead of just giving away the information we have to focus more on inspiring and filling with curiosity 😃 that's when we become creative

  5. people think without fear no one can rush toward the goal but u put beautifully that fear can enhance ur speed but influence your learning . I also feel the same

  6. whilst I do find that fear of failure stops me from studying effectively I have to say in those two weeks before exams I force myself to study and I learn loads. I think we Aldo need the pressure to focus our minds. flow= pressures / resistance. if resistance is our fear of failure the pressure of an exam can push down on our fears and then we can create a good flow of studying.

  7. I found that being to relaxed doesn't always helps, I have failed exams where I was too lazy to do it fast but I knew everything…


  9. Although you have presented a lot of good information, I kinda have to argue with this video's false dichotomy presentation of this issue in that there are many studies that show fear to be a good teacher. We remember experiences more vividly when under pressure, that's the basic system that drives evolution – we're scared, we learn what to avoid and how to avoid it and what solution work best under fearful situations etc… This video also null and voids the quantifiable results of many students from Asian countries who study really hard in fear that they will not meet the college entrance exam. (Granted, there are a lot of negative side effects of that and I'm not here to argue those.) I have been wondering lately if their rote memorization and forced learning really help them learn and understand subject matters, then I realized that with my own life experience, more neuro-connections are formed because of stressful situations, and even if you don't have time to relax during the day, when you sleep, your brain makes all sorts of connections that help with learning. Contentment breeds complacency as well. There are many variables to consider when speaking of this issue, so I just want to put this out there to balance things out.

  10. yeah, it is good though that we free our minds and relax from everuthing to get things right. but the problem sometimes is the society or/and the parents who puts the pressure and standards..

  11. IMO some stress is helpful. When I exercise, I believe I benefit when I stress my body somewhat without pushing to its limit. I think mental stress works in a similar way. Some stress can be beneficial, but it can set you back if you take on too much at once. Also, as with physical conditioning, it's good to know what kind of shape you're in, what areas need work, and so on.

  12. Nice video! Can you please make a video on some of the best learning strategies for school? It would be really helpful

  13. i think pressure situation are not at all creative and productive, rather we forget the learned things too. I know cause whn I'm stressed in viva table, I forget a lot of things which are usually always present in my memory when I'm at my comfortable place like with friends or family. 🙂

  14. I am sure these amusing lessons will armour ourselves with knowledge against our deep seated negative emotions. I love the way the storyboards demonstrate the manifestation of so many familiar emotions and behavioral traits. Knowledge is in era-change. Sprouts is contributing predominantly in that. Wish all the best.

  15. I would deeply appreciate if Sprouts could suggest a few reference books or articles on the related issues

  16. We should keep nil stress in our minds. Because that's what I have experienced. At University I'm so much stressed about future and under so much fear that my grades have plummeted.

  17. I completely agree with how stress can effect studying. However, for me personally, it is a lot more difficult to relax. What works for me is surrounding myself with friends or family while I am studying so if I need to, I can look away from my work for a moment and have my friends cheer me on. It's a nice feeling. Like having a cheer squad in front of you.

  18. my style of reading is num 1…a lot of schedule… that increase my pressure!..I have a journal book write my tast everyday…don't u think it is increasing my pressure??

  19. loved how you summarized the three actions and labeled them . would love to watch more of your uploads , keep it up ^_^.

  20. My brain works better when it is under pressure or fear. Really though, I can complete 4 chapters for tomorrow's exam but not even a single chapter for the next month's exam.

  21. study rest study this was the technique I followed for my last exam even when I had loads of syllabus but fortunately it worked everything stayed in my mind now I know why continuous and forced studying don't work .thanks for the video😊

  22. Hi! Very nice and informational videos. I really like the presentation. I am confronted also with these questions in mind, do I need to follow a strict plan of activities or do I need to feel lax on my schedule so that I can perform well? Based on my experience, I always have a plan of activities for the day, that is my plan and another column for the things that I have actually done. There is a huge difference mainly because I do not always stick to my plan so I tend to be unhappy sometimes. But there are times also that I put in my mind that I need to be flexible because I cannot hold or control my external environment or the circumstances why I cannot finish the tasks that I have planned. I would appreciate if you could give me insights if what I am doing is somewhat right or wrong? Thanks a lot!

  23. pressurising my mind for achieving my learning goal never helped me.. I hv done better in relax mode.

  24. Hello. I am an educator. Thanks for such a great video. I would be grateful if you could provide the link for the experiment with car racing game or at least spelling of name of German neuroscientist who conducted it. I would like to use it in my article. Thanks

  25. Nice VDO, but on the bit about exam stress, I have a harsh criticism: sitting an exam is not normally a learning time, it is a remembering time, hopefully with some critical thinking necessary (if the questions are good open ended ones). The real solution is not breathing technique though, it is getting rid of exams, or at least not using exams as grade reward systems, but as zero-risk challenges for getting assessment information. Exams should never be used as final assessments or for awarding grade points, precisely for the reasons laid out in this video. If you actually WANT students to learn how to cope under stress, an exam is probably not the simulation you want, instead you should simulate the real condition you want to test, e.g., a game, or an actual simulation of real life stress, e.g., fire-fighting or police work training simulations. A mathematician or scientist working under exam style stress on the other hand is a joke, because the realistic stress of such occupations is not with exams, but with long work hours and experimental mishaps or long attempts at proofs that fail at the last steps, etc. So schools and universities should take these things to heart and rethink the purpose of exams.

  26. I think that there're lot of ways to both relax our mind not to be stressful and push for a goal to maximize learning.
    Maybe we can see how to do it soon.

  27. Nice video, these happens when i was a teen with my parents, they never understands me, all they do its just blaming me and i always wrong..

  28. This is EXACTLY why teachers SHOULD NOT BE ARMED.
    Students shouldn't be fearful of those they're being tested by, and judged by.
    Students DO know that teachers are judging them, testing them, and grading them. And that's stressful enough.
    So what SANE person thinks it's good to add the knowledge that that same classroom judge and jury authority figure now ALSO has the REAL capability to ENDING YOUR LIFE?

  29. Love your videos ….. plz keep making so much more…
    Love all the practical wisdon and techinques you give😆

  30. Can you please create a vedio which summerises all of your vedios and give a certain idea about improving our mental health

  31. Can you please create a vedio on selecting a particular goal in life(we may find many things interesting in life but we can't do all of them) that is the subject which we truly lov e as Steve jobs said in one of his speech

  32. I'm not tired yet about your English videos, I love british English.
    Sometime some one said me that I can't be a native speaker but that doesn't matter for me.

  33. Makes sense why when I have fear during timed tests can either do very well or do not do well at all. I found if I focus on doing my best rather than getting a good grade I usually do well. Great video and thanks for all you do Sprouts!!!

  34. Yeterday there was a news in the local news paper about a girl who suiside becouse she coudint score much in neet exam which is an entrance exam which comes every year on the other hand i am here living disqulified in the same exam

  35. Setting up a goal is extremely beneficial for people who are hardworking, But for people who are very intelligent they manage situations differently.

  36. If you want learning Science effectively, let's prefer to this channel

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