Learning Through Osmosis: Does it Work?

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There are so many ways to learn, both within and outside a classroom. Each form of learning is valid depending on what you intend to achieve from it. However, some learning methodologies are more popular than others. But this popularity doesn’t make them less popular ones less effective. One of such learning methods that is hardly talked about is osmosis learning. Sounds strange, right? That’s why we’ve written this article to help you learn everything about it. The article also explains some factors to help you know circumstances where osmosis learning may be the best for you. Let’s dive right in.

What Does Learning Through Osmosis Mean?What Does Learning Through Osmosis Mean?

Learning through osmosis is a subconscious form of learning. This form of education typically occurs due to observation and imitation of people’s behaviors and abilities and contact with a particular environment. But, why the term “osmosis”? Let’s break it down.

What is osmosis? Osmosis is the flow of fluid substances based on the difference in osmotic pressure. It is the movement of the liquid molecules from a region of higher osmotic pressure to a region of lower osmotic pressure, that is, down the osmotic pressure gradient.

How about learning? It is acquiring information, knowledge, or skills through experience, formal education, or study.

Put those two definitions together, and you can easily tell that osmosis learning simply involves gaining information from people full of knowledge or experience, usually subconsciously. It also doesn’t lead to a decrease in the knowledge of the other person. But because learning through osmosis occurs subconsciously, it requires frequent contact or repetitive actions.

What Can You Learn from Osmosis?

What Can You Learn from Osmosis?

The nature of the environment you are in determines the kinds of things you can learn. Some environments are more stimulating than others. When we talk about being more stimulating, we mean that such environments have more fascinating cultures, more diversity, or interesting people. You will constantly learn something new from all of these circumstances, even the most trivial ones, both consciously and unconsciously.

We have established that learning through osmosis is a natural incidence that requires contact. We’ve also established that learning can be either conscious or subconscious. However, we also need to understand that we can’t learn everything through this process. So, this brings us to the question: “what are the things that one can learn through osmosis?” Here are some of them.

  • Gestures: Have you ever noticed yourself picking up certain gestures from the people you interact with? That’s you learning through osmosis. You can unconsciously pick up one or two gestures from someone that gesticulates frequently. This is most likely to happen when you constantly observe the person or interact with the person. A familiar gesture everyone probably learned through osmosis is nodding to indicate a “yes.”
  • Ways of speaking: this is one of the most common characteristics that a person can learn through osmosis. Whether as kids or as full-grown adults, we always tend to learn new speech styles and techniques. If you watch your favorite character on TV about five days a week, you may speak like that character sometimes. It might not be a frequent imitation, but it is likely to happen. Another example is in the case of admiration. You tend to speak like someone you consider a role model, especially after listening to them over time.
  • Values: as the saying goes, “when in Rome, do as the Romans do.” When you are in a foreign country, you probably try to blend in by imitating their ways of life and understanding their values. However, through observations, it has been discovered that most of the fundamental societal values are not learned through conscious effort, whether in one’s country or a foreign country. Through everyday interactions with an environment, you will subconsciously blend in with that environment. This is another way of learning through osmosis.
  • Behaviors: you are also likely to learn a person’s behavior through osmosis, especially with frequent contact. Even the most reserved people find themselves picking up new behaviors from the people they constantly interact with. It could be your parents, siblings, co-workers, or work colleagues. Some people even go as far as consciously learning some behaviors from the people they admire.
  • Language: generally, children learn their mother tongue through osmosis. This is a case of osmosis listening, learning through the constant hearing of a particular word, statement, or language. If you want your child to learn something, especially a language, expose them to it as much as possible. It has also been shown that speaking a language constantly with your child will induce learning through osmosis. This learning process can also be valuable for people that are moving to new regions with new languages. Mingling with locals of the new region can fast-track your ability to learn the language.

Does Osmosis Work for Studying?

Does Osmosis Work for Studying?

In the academic environment, learning is active. Learning through osmosis can only complement other types of learning in such an environment. Since learning is an active process, osmosis learning alone cannot work for studying. Osmosis learning is a subconscious way of learning and when studying. In the case of academic learning, you may need to assimilate information actively. However, learning through osmosis can assist you in gaining more knowledge – acting as a complement to other forms of active learning. Or, in another way, other forms of learning should be used to complement osmosis learning for effective assimilation.

Compared to many other activities, academic work requires more effort. Watching a TV series does not require as much work. Despite how simple watching a TV series seems, you can still learn one or two things through osmosis. However, you can’t rely only on the information you pick through osmosis, especially if you are preparing for a serious test. Therefore, we can safely say that active academic studies work hand in hand with osmosis.

Irrespective of your level, of course, you’ll still learn several things through osmosis. After all, we’ve established that osmosis learning complements the other types of learning (practicals, watching educational videos, solving past questions, etc.)

Another aspect of complementary osmosis learning that you can benefit from is interacting with other serious students. Regularly interacting with studious individuals will expose you to more forms of active study, introduce you to more terminologies related to the subject of interest and stimulate your subconscious to pick up some of their activities. This results in a passive flow of knowledge from the intellectual people to you.

Also, there is an uncommon phenomenon known as hypnopedia which is the process of learning through sleep. Recent studies show the possibility of acquiring new knowledge from this type of learning, although we are still a long way from seeing official scientific proof of it. Nonetheless, sleep is known to be a critical factor in memory formation and learning. So, whether the information is gained through active learning or osmosis learning, possible memory consolidation occurs during sleep.

In summary, osmosis does not work for studying, but it may complement other types of active learning.

Does Learning Through Osmosis Really Work?

Does Learning Through Osmosis Really Work?

We all search for knowledge and ways to gain understanding. We especially see this search in students, researchers, and many others in the academic field. If you are a student and recently heard about osmosis learning, one of the questions you might think of is, “does learning by osmosis work?”

As explained earlier, osmosis learning involves interaction, then observation and imitation. There are many examples of activities that have been learned through osmosis. Although this type of learning does not require conscious effort, it is crucial in our daily activities. As long as you interact with your environment; as long as you can imitate an act and practice it regularly; as long as you can observe the people around you, whether at home, in school, at your workplace, or somewhere random, you are bound to learn something new.

All types of learning are valid, and every kind of learning can complement or be complemented by other types of learning. Therefore, learning through osmosis works for several different situations.

Wrapping Things Up: Learning Through Osmosis

It’s not strange to see students looking for ways to make learning easier. Perhaps, this is why many students have embraced the idea of learning through osmosis since the process is mostly passive. Unfortunately, no student can thrive on osmosis learning alone since many aspects of learning require active classroom conversations. That doesn’t mean that you should toss away the option of learning through osmosis. However, rather than relying on osmosis learning as a stand-alone learning method, it’s better to learn how to complement it with active learning methods. In the end, what matters is your ability to learn faster and better. Therefore, we typically advise that you find the right combination that will work for you and stick to it.

Professor Conquer
Professor Conquer

Professor Conquer started Conquer Your Exam in 2018 to help students feel more confident and better prepared for their tough tests. Prof excelled in high school, graduating top of his class and receiving admissions into several Ivy League and top 15 schools. He has helped many students through the years tutoring and mentoring K-12, consulting seniors through the college admissions process, and writing extensive how-to guides for school.

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