The school system as we know it, is & has been shaping students to fit the system which they live in and throughout this process, the students are forced to learn(mostly memorize) subjects which they do not have any interest in whatsoever and because of this they can't score high in school. It is as if our brains are trying to avoid information, which is out of interest, as much as possible. But when there's something in interest it is damn easy to collect and comprehend that information.

Let's assume that you are a programmer and you are greatly amazed by that, you love solving problems and develop software, you read lots of documentations and contribute on other peoples projects without even having to worry about "remembering" what you're reading, everything is easily understood and there's no issue with that. But when you have to learn about politics and how the system works, it appears as cancer to your eyes because you have no interest in it, there's no will to collect that information and therefore you score low in that subject.

now my question is: Why can't we learn what we don't like? (what we're not interested in?)

  • Welcome to Psychology.SE. This question can lead to answers which can fill volumes of books. Subject areas covering learning styles, teaching styles, rapport and many more affect the ability for someone to learn from a classroom environment. Can you please try and narrow the scope of your question to one area and if you need answers from other subject areas, you can ask about them in separate questions. – Chris Rogers Oct 7 at 23:10
  • Ps. Can you also provide some info on what you have read on the subject and any problems with understanding? This will help not only to prevent repeating what you already know, but also focus the answer towards what you have read and clarify what you might not understand. – Chris Rogers Oct 7 at 23:14
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    Personally, I felt this question was quite focused already, but indeed not based in prior research (yet very agreeable common observations). I believe it is one of these questions where a very short introductory answer is warranted. – Steven Jeuris Oct 8 at 8:10

Its all in the experience. Lets say we are studying 6 subjects in school, there is a high chance that we are going to dislike some of them. No one excels in everything they come across. Its a blessing in disguise if you think about it. Its a way for our minds to filter what comes natural to us and what doesn't. I for one can totally relate with your example. Our mind is just not that good at working hard. When we are doing something that we love, we are not actually "working" or "trying". We just do it hours after hours and keep indulging in that activity days after days, just because it feels natural and our mind doesn't have to work that hard on it. Past experience makes a huge difference too.


There is some relation between what we are interested in and what we are good at. If people are bad at something, they usually lose interest in it and turn to other things. If you are good at something, you enjoy doing it and are interested in it.

Interest, therefore, is a preditor of ability, and you are better at learning things that you can do, than you are at learning things that you cannot learn to do.


Learning requires time, attention, and effort. If you are interested in something, you will (want to) spend more time, attention, and effort on it. If you aren't interested in something, you'll find every minute of it unpleasant, so you will limit the time you spend with it, not be as attentive, and not labour as hard.

You will also not think about it while you are not learning, you won't connect it to other interests and activities, and so on. In short, you won't elaborate.

There is a psychological theory, the elaboration likelihood model, that says that the processing of information will be more superficial when the motivation to process the information is low.


Doing something interesting is pleasurable, and everything in your mind and body works better if you are in a good mood. Hormones such as oxytocin, whose levels are higher when you are "happy" (and free of negative stress), have a positive effect on memory formation and retention.

  • Welcome to Psychology.SE. Can you please provide some references (scientific journals, reputable websites etc.) which can back claims you made in section 1 of your answer? Especially the last paragraph. Can you also please do the same on your claim that oxytocin helps with memory formation and retention? – Chris Rogers Oct 11 at 23:14

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