Why does something suddenly ‘click’ when learning something?


Why when learning how to play something, such as an instrument, does something suddenly click and you suddenly become much better at that skill?

And does this apply for learning anything? Such as programming or are some things just learnt at a constant rate by certain people.

In: 475

The click is a neural pathway being formed in the brain. Sometimes called a wave of crystallization. It is the chemistry of learning.


It’s not just one thing that creates the effect, creation of new pathways in the brain, ignoring prior wrong assumptions, activating neurons relating to memory.

If you are trying to go from a to b on a map but you thought that you were unable to turn left on certain intersections and then you find out that’s not the case then the route shortens drastically, that would be the click.

“Clicking” is when what was previously an island of knowledge suddenly gets connected to the mainland of the rest of your knowledge. You can visualize it like solving a jigsaw puzzle and suddenly finding where a block of tiles you’ve been working on connects to the big picture.

Humans use a learning technique called “working maps” to allow us to navigate problems we’ve never seen before in a totally abstract space. When the brain recognizes a large piece of that map (say, that controlling a surfboard is somewhat like turning a bike) it’s suddenly able to make a whole bunch of related leaps of inference at the same time based on that more familiar territory.

Anything that you’re learning that has a strong analogue with something you’ve already learned is going to “click” at some point. Anything that is less intuitive or totally unfamiliar will be less likely to give you that learning curve.

The brain is very complex, and there really isn’t one definitive answer for your question. Though there is a good word for it: epiphany, or a sudden realization. Presumably, as others have said, the reason why we have an epiphany is because the synapses in our brains make associations to the newly learned information. However, that is only one part of the equation. We “notice” an epiphany because associations are also made in other parts of the brain. For example, if we are emotionally invested then having an epiphany may illicit a “proud” response. Our brains also release serotonin as a result of learning something, which can explain a “feel good” sensation.