Twitter’s great for random rabbit holes just lying in wait for the permanently curious. And one of the more interesting discoveries for me in recent weeks has been the thread that introduced me to the concept of spaced repetition:-
The use of spaced repetition memory systems has changed my life over the past couple of years. Here's a few things I've found helpful:
— michael_nielsen (@michael_nielsen) January 28, 2018
Put simply, the concept is that you learn more effectively by creating a bunch of flashcards that you then test yourself on regularly. If you remember easily, you don’t need to test your memory about it for while. But if you struggle, however, you are forced to revisit that card much more quickly, and more frequently – until it ends up in the first category.
So it’s a dynamic system that has a number of solutions out there to create digital, as opposed to physical, flashcards. Which brings the benefit that you can carry them with you wherever you are – plus you can check analytics directly in order to see how you’re progressing.
I’ll caveat this by saying that I have no evidence as yet as to how effective it is for my brain in particular. But I’ve started experimenting with Anki (although there are a few different options out there). And I’ve not spent any real time diving into the science, but this method seem to be more suitable for our human brains which store memories in an emergent, as opposed to planned way.
It seems that memories are not kept in a nice tidy database in your head by your brain. Instead, each one is stored where the brain sees fit, in an emergent manner. The memory itself gets stronger if the brain encounters it regularly and frequently.
So spaced repetition seems to me to fall into that category of deliberate practice. It appears to work more effectively because you are forced to work hard at remembering things throughout the process.
I haven’t yet worked out how I’m going to test this in practice but I’m up for giving it a try for a while and check out the results.
(Provided I don’t forget that I was planning to do this in the first place….)