Spaced Learning technique(Not Spaced Repetition)

11 posts / 0 new
Last post
#1 18 September, 2015 - 23:10
Offline
Joined: 1 year 6 months ago

Spaced Learning technique(Not Spaced Repetition)


I just found this site a few days ago and have been absorbing everything I can on memory palaces, major system, etc..(still haven't tried them yet).. it's been fascinating but while reading through threads I've noticed everyone seems to recommend spaced repetition for putting information into long term memory and it pains my soul to think of people using such a slow/inefficient system..
The reason spaced repetition takes weeks to months is because it's like rereading or rewriting something dozens of times, which doesn't work because you're not making any connection(mind palaces/mnemonics work by using visual/spatial parts of the brain which spaced repetition doesn't use), with the addition of spreading out every rereading. Eventually it's going to sink in but there're better ways that take less time.

Recall over time IS how you create long term memories(other than something like strong smell, emotions, etc) but it needs the same meaning, associations and links that you use when making mind palaces.. Which is where Spaced Learning comes in.

Spaced learning was discovered in 2005 by a neuroscientist and iirc was improved by a team of neuroscientists in 2009
Here's an article on it: http://journal.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fnhum.2013.00589/full (long read)
Spaced learning works off the same principal as memory palaces; activating the visual/spatial parts of the brain to take advantage of how well the brain remembers visual/spatial things. The difference being you replace the effort of visualizing and storing with time. Since it works off the same principal it lets you memorize an equal amount of information as a memory palace and is designed to take advantage of how the brain works to make sure the information gets put into your long term memory.

The technique itself:
1. Read the information you want to learn and/or try to visualize it just to put it in your head, focus on what you're doing but don't spend more than the minimum amount of time it takes you to go over each thing, read/visualize one piece of information for a couple of seconds then move on to the next.
2. This might sound weird but..for 10 minutes distract yourself with movies, tv, music, painting, sculpting, physical activity, anything that uses the visual/spatial part of the brain. Don't think about the information you're trying to learn. This step might sound like a waste of time but you need to do it if you want the information to go into your long term memory.
3. Try to recall the information you're trying to learn. It probably won't come easy to you the first time and you'll have to reread it but that's fine, just reread/re-visualize whatever you couldn't recall.
4 Repeat recall/distraction steps to your desire/as necessary based on how much you're trying to learn, 3 recalls should be enough most of the time unless you're trying to memorize over 300 things, then i'd recommend splitting it into multiple sessions.(I've never tried to learn that much at once, it might work in one session, i'd still split it up just for ease)
3 recalls with 2 distractions is all the neuroscientists say is necessary but I repeat until it starts getting easy

So that's minimum 20 minutes + however long you spend trying to recall the information or repeating the steps
Don't put too much thought into it, there's a good bit of wiggle room. When I study using this technique I literally just read the information a few times then watch netflix and every 10 minutes see if I can recall the list. That's how easy this technique is. For a list of 50 to 100 terms it takes me 30-45 minutes(3-4 recall attempts) before it sticks.
The information is encoded after that but it takes the brain 3 days(3 nights of sleep) to consolidate information, which is a fancy term for putting it into your long term memory, so it will be 3 days before you have 100% recall of it. Not that you'll really notice since short term memory lasts 5 days.

The 10 minute distractions make it take longer than if you've gotten quick with memory palaces so it's not something you can use in a competition but 30 minutes to 1-2 hours for 100% recall for years without having to get good at anything is worth it if you're not that fast with memory palaces/mnemonics yet or concerned your memory palace won't work over long periods of time. (I don't know if memory palaces put the information into your long term memory but I keep reading people worrying over it)

Hope this helps someone stop using spaced repetition and make long term memories faster, i've been using it for a while now and still have 100% recall of things I studied last year without having to ever review anything.

20 September, 2015 - 04:07
Offline
Joined: 1 year 6 months ago

Hi Cantos

That study was quite interesting. I'm curious, isn't this the same as spaced repetition?

I mean that when I am memorising something I try to create the mnemonic and then recall it without an aid over intervals e.g. at 10mins then 1 hour then a few hours later etc. Isn't this the same?

I'm quite new to this so I am a bit confused.

20 September, 2015 - 06:17
Offline
Joined: 1 year 11 months ago

Cantos, thank you very much, this sounds very interesting. Just to be sure, you mention 3 days that it takes for the memories to consolidate, do you do any recall during these days? Or is it just the first day's 3-4 reps and you're done?

The method sounds really low effort: three recalls interspersed with Netflix watching. (Now that I think about it, maybe the whole research was sponsored by Netflix? ;) Just kidding, sorry)

I'm also curious about the speed of recall of the information memorized this way. Is it
(near-)instantaneous, or is there a noticeable delay when trying to recall?

20 September, 2015 - 23:23
Offline
Joined: 1 year 6 months ago

DR06, Both the Spaced Repetition and Spaced Learning techniques are based on the same idea of trying to use recall over time but Spaced Repetition doesn't activate the visual/spatial parts of the brain so the neural connection each time is really weak which is why it takes so many repetitions for Spaced Repetition to work. By adding the distraction and activating the visual/spatial part of the brain the neural connection is stronger, which the visual/spatial thing is the same principal Mind Palaces rely on if I understand correctly, so it only takes 3 recalls before the long term memory is made since activating the visual/spatial centers is what does most of the work. Also making it so you don't have to spread out the information in increasing intervals, you just do it in one sitting.

Urfin, no you don't have to recall over those 3 days, after you do your one sitting you shouldn't have to study it again and should have 100% recall for as long as the long term memory lasts(many months to years depending on how strong the connection is)
It really is low effort but you have to be really focused on the visual/spatial thing you're doing. So if you use Netflix as your distraction you need to really be into what you're watching. You're trying to get that feeling when you're painting a picture or playing some sport where you get into the "zone" and are completely absorbed in it. That's what lets you know the visual/spatial parts of the brain are activated. Sometimes watching Netflix won't work for me because i'm just not interested so I use painting instead, find what works for you.
The speed of recall if pretty much instantaneous. I link lists with numbers and if someone starts telling me numbers I can rattle off the information associated with that number instantly. Sometimes if you don't put as much effort into recalling certain pieces of information or aren't really paying attention to the distraction then some of it might take a couple seconds to remember. You can fix that with another 1 or 2 distractions/recalls. When I do lists I break them down into groups of 4 or 5 and have one word of the group associated with the others so if I forget one of them I can remember that word and work my way to it.
Ex. memorizing the moons of Jupiter by their orbital period, if I forget what 36 is I remember "33 - Ananke" then Herse, Aitne, and Kale immediately roll off my tongue with ease.

21 September, 2015 - 02:41
Offline
Joined: 1 year 6 months ago

Cantos, Thanks for clearing that up! This is very interesting. I will definitely be trying this today!

I feel like i may also be able to do this method for longer than simply doing one long stint of memorisation.

27 December, 2016 - 01:53
Offline
Joined: 4 years 7 months ago

Isn't the same as just testing your self and forcing yourself to come up with the answer. And in testing your memory you are reinforcing the visuals which are used to memorize. Sleep helps consolidate memory. So if you really want quicker consolidation try taking power naps! you can work flash cards and for 3 repetitions and then take a power nap! I have found exercise also works well. 20 min of intense exercise seems to also help consolidate memories.

28 December, 2016 - 06:38
Offline
Joined: 2 months 3 weeks ago

Has anyone tried this technique for long term memory? Who wouldn't love to spend less time committing something to long term memory while also watching Netflix (and getting to say "But I AM working!"). Just wondering how it has worked out for anyone else who has tried it.

10 January, 2017 - 08:17
Offline
Joined: 4 years 5 months ago

I am very interested, but equally skeptic on this spaced learning method. Thanks a lot for pointing this article. This provide insights and could invite me to try a pomodoro-like approach of learning.

I just read the paper linked and I am amazed that the authors never felt like mentionning that the 5 day delay between learning and test was a possible bias favorising their experimental condition. Or maybe did I missread something ? If spaced learning would have taken place at the start of the experiment (i.e 4 months before test), I would have placed my bet against it favoring the classical 23 hours of direct instruction.

From a neuroscience point of view, this is OK to call it Long Term Memory, but this is not the "long term memory" that we, learner, strive to get. I would like to check studies investigating memory decay for learning obtained with this method. I also wonder if the timing and the type of distraction have been manipulated as experimental variables during some other studies. That would be interesting from a learner perspective.

Quote:

DR06, Both the Spaced Repetition and Spaced Learning techniques are based on the same idea of trying to use recall over time but Spaced Repetition doesn't activate the visual/spatial parts of the brain so the neural connection each time is really weak which is why it takes so many repetitions for Spaced Repetition to work. By adding the distraction and activating the visual/spatial part of the brain the neural connection is stronger, which the visual/spatial thing is the same principal Mind Palaces rely on if I understand correctly, so it only takes 3 recalls before the long term memory is made since activating the visual/spatial centers is what does most of the work. Also making it so you don't have to spread out the information in increasing intervals, you just do it in one sitting.

Do you have any reference supporting this idea or is just your own interpretation ? Sorry if it sounds aggressive because I am not. But I have to say that it does not sound very credible to me for the moment. To me, distractors are just distractors, they are made to get a pause while avoiding interferences (like consciencously thinking again to what was learned).

10 January, 2017 - 08:40
Offline
Joined: 2 months 3 weeks ago

I have been looking into this further and it looks like it's legitimate. I found this presentation Spaced Learning which has links to view live Spaced Learning sessions with some explanation of how they are structured. I have watched these and found it very interesting. I'm still not certain how well this will apply to memorizing stuff in a memory palace (in the videos they are learning core concepts and are only expected to retain maybe half of the information by the end) but I think it's worth pursuing. I will be trying this out soon.

10 January, 2017 - 10:05
Offline
Joined: 4 years 5 months ago

Thanks for this link !
It is indeed interesting and I think I will read more about it, especially the scientific papers.

This seems to be a combinaison of highly regarded techniques (testing effect and spacing effect).
From what I know, the "testing effect", especially when the recall mode is the "free recall" provides very strong results. For this reason I consider that the free recall is one of the most valuable learning technique. Spacing learning is also known to be a very efficient approach, but I would not have expected that this kind of small intervalls would have worked well. On the contrary there are some evidences that the more you wait before practicing free recall the longer is your retention.

To be honest, another reason of my skepticism is that it's somehow branded as a "neuroscience based" approach. From my point of view, this is generally not a good smell.

Anyway, I'll read more and judge less. I'll try to find specific experimentations that used the design suggested in the pdf. By the way, the method described in your link seems a bit different than what was done in the first paper linked (3 intensive sessions with only minor variations).

Let's keep this post updated with our own progression with this Spacing Learning Technique.

References (I would be a b**ch to ask for references while not giving them myself).

  • On the testing effect : The famous Dunlosky & al (2013) which, among other things, gives a nice overview of the testing effect (8. Practice testing)
  • On the relation with spacing and retention interval (a more general review) : Cepeda & al (2006)
11 January, 2017 - 04:07
Offline
Joined: 4 years 5 months ago

I have tried to find and read research papers, and I did not find many experimentations well described. My doubts are still present and I think the pdf overestimate the scientific support for this proposition.

If anyone has a good paper challenging my views, please don't hesitate to share.

Still, this approach is to me an interesting teaching alternative, and I am considering using it. From an autodidact perspective, I don't feel very convinced but I may still give a try if I have the occasion.

Learn memory techniques for free! Just click the "Sign up" button below to create an account and we'll send you an email with some tips on how to get started.

Related content: