Spaced repetition (memorization technique): what it is and how to use it

In recent years, the use of mnemonic strategies has become popular and systematized, making it possible to learn very complex information in a relatively simple manner. These techniques include the loci method, the pole method, the memory palace, or spaced repetition.

In this article we will describe what the spaced review technique consists of and we will explain how to apply it to memorize large amounts of information. We will also talk about the effect of spaced memory, a psychological phenomenon that explains the effectiveness of this mnemonic.

    What is spaced repetition?

    Spaced repetition, also called spaced revision, is a memory learning technique that involves learn a given material by allowing longer and longer spaces to pass between one training session and the next.

    This technique is used to memorize content and practice skills over time, rather than doing it intensively over a short period of time. The space between workouts gradually increases as the learning solidifies in order to utilize the spaced memory effect, which we’ll talk about later.

    This space created for learning allows greater maintenance of memory: each time the memorization exercises are practiced, a new review of the information during the work is carried out. even intensive learning tends to be sustained to a lesser extent if regular practices are not carried out later.

    Spaced repetition is especially useful when you are trying to learn from memory and continuously learn a large number of different items. Examples of this could be mathematical formulas or the vocabulary of a foreign language.

    Likewise, the advances that have taken place in the field of computing in recent decades have favored the emergence of computer-assisted learning methods. Many of these are based on the Gap Revision technique, or allow for easy application.

      The spaced memory effect

      Hermann Ebbinghaus, pioneer of the experimental study of memory who lived in the second half of the 19th century, described two phenomena that gave it a place in the history of psychology: the forgetting curve, which represents the duration of memory strokes if no review is applied, subsequent learning.

      According to Ebbinghaus and other later authors, when learning is distributed over time, information is better preserved only if done in one session. In the first case we speak of spaced presentation of the content, and in the second of mass presentation.

      This implies, for example, that if we study for 6 hours for an exam the day before, after a few days or weeks we will have forgotten a greater proportion of what has been learned than if we had spread those 6 hours over several days. . However, the superiority of spaced learning is not so clear in the short term.

      There are different hypotheses on the causes of this effect; all of them may be true with respect to different types of learning and information seeking (such as free and induced memory). In this way the phenomena of semantic priming and neuronal potentiation emerge long term.

        How is this technique used?

        The most common method of applying the spaced repetition technique it begins by dividing the information into small chunks of content. In some cases it is easier than in others; for example, vocabulary can be studied using brief definitions, but in order to memorize historical episodes it will be necessary to describe or summarize the information.

        cal understand the content to memorize before preparing for training; this will facilitate the capture of the relationships between the different elements and will avoid possible errors in the preparation of the learning material. It is also advisable to divide the information as much as possible to facilitate the retention of each item.

        Then, the items to be learned must be distributed in some sort of physical or virtual medium. Cards can be used, but there is computer software which makes it easier to use spaced repeats, such as the Mnemosyne, Anki, and Mnemodo apps. There are also specific programs for spaced language learning.

        Two particularly popular types of cards are those which leave blanks for the learner to fill in (eg “The trigeminal is the _ of the 12 skull pairs”) and those which include a question and an answer. The latter can be prepared by writing a question on one side and the corresponding answer on the other.

        The time intervals between training sessions and the length of the total training period depend on the needs and preferences of the person applying the technique. The most important thing is to keep in mind that memorization exercises should be more frequent at the beginning and gradually space out until the learning reaches the desired level.

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