Spaced Learning technique(Not Spaced Repetition)

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#1 18 September, 2015 - 23:10
Joined: 2 years 1 month 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: (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
Joined: 2 years 1 month 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
Joined: 2 years 6 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
Joined: 2 years 1 month 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
Joined: 2 years 1 month 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
Joined: 5 years 2 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
Joined: 9 months 4 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
Joined: 5 years 3 weeks 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.

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
Joined: 9 months 4 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
Joined: 5 years 3 weeks 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
Joined: 5 years 3 weeks 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.

28 April, 2017 - 00:48
Joined: 9 months 2 weeks ago

Hello bruno, I share the same viewpoints as you do.

"Spaced Repetition doesn't activate the visual/spatial parts of the brain"

This is not the problem of spaced repetition, but rather how you approach you study session. If you’re using the memory palace or other mnemonic techniques to commit something to memory, then of course you have to use the visual/spatial parts of the brain. But for other general knowledge, my definition of connection is rather how you link your information with other information using analogies, personal experiences and examples. Not everything is easily visualized.
IMHO, spaced learning is just spaced repetition within another spaced repetition: your study session consists of 3 spaced repetition with 2 breaks. The general sense of spaced repetition is repeating the information over days, weeks, even years.

There’s the retrieval strength and storage strength. Due to multiple retrieval practice within a day or a few days, the retrieval strength must be high. I would doubt the recall-ability of such information months later: “Use it or lose it”.

I would argue that spaced learning is useful if cooperated into spaced repetition. For example, when reviewing how the cardiovascular system works, study by using spaced learning. Then schedule to do so for 7 days, 16 days, 1 month later (normal spaced repetition). For each review session, use spaced learning rather than 1 large chunk of studying.

6 May, 2017 - 04:52
Joined: 1 year 10 months ago

Hi Cantos,

I have the same (unanswered) request as bruno on 10 January, 2017 - 16:17

Please provide a link for your following statement:


Cantos: 21 September, 2015 - 07:23

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 ...


7 May, 2017 - 13:30
Joined: 4 years 5 months ago

FWIW, I have started playing with this method. So far I like it. It feels like it may be working, but it is too soon to tell if I am retaining the data for a long period of time. At the very least, it is enjoyable.

16 June, 2017 - 20:40
Joined: 8 months 2 weeks ago

Here's a double blind study I found testing the "Spaced Learning" method:!po=50.0000

They had control students and experimental students - the controls were taught using a traditional method - a unit of biology over 4 months whilst the experimental group were taught for one 60 minute "spaced learning" session all the biology subject material contained in the 4 months of teaching (approx 27 hours).

The students who had never studied the subject material but used the spaced learning method to learn for 60 mins were tested several days later and got the same score as the students taught the material for 4 months of standard school teaching methods.

It's very interesting - the author explain the the process for encoding Long Term Memories (LTM) is in fact chemical and this method is the natural way.

I'm interested to know if when the method is used, would additional mmemonics applied to learning in this method add to the method to better encode memories or would it just add additional time to learning without any significant benefit?

I would be interested to see anyone who has tried the "spaced learning" and mnemonics used together.

16 June, 2017 - 14:52
Joined: 4 years 5 months ago

As you can see from my previous comment, I tried the method in early May. As it happens, I did mix it with mnemonic images. My feeling was very good about it. After learning some information, I checked my retention within the first couple days and felt that it was very good. Learning required very little work.

I did not try retrieving the information again until today. While I still retained a reasonably strong impression of the mnemonic imagery, the overall information had degraded significantly--to the point that I would say I didn't really remember the information. I was able to tease some bits out, but I could not reassemble it into a coherent body of information.

However, when I went back to the original source--a book on business value propositions--I found things very familiar. I think a few minutes of review would probably be enough to rekindle my knowledge.

My impression, therefore, is that this is a useful technique. But for me at least, it would require at least a bit of spaced repetition (as opposed to "spaced learning") to ensure that the body of learning remains coherent. Even so, I would think that an occasional quick review might be sufficient. That is enough for me to say that the method seems like an excellent additional tool in my arsenal.

Final thought--I wonder how much age affects the results. If you do this with young students, are the results likely to be significantly different from an older person?

16 June, 2017 - 20:48
Joined: 8 months 2 weeks ago

Tarnation, what mnemonic techniques did you use at the time, just imagery? Or did you go further with method of loci?

Have your retrieved the information in other parts of your life for use or as in review since the "spaced learning" study session?

How much would you say you remember from free recall before you went back to the source material to give yourself feedback?

Do you think the spaced learning technique is a worthwhile method of learning by itself or do you think, as you alluded, that it's another tool that would be best used in addition to more structured mnemonics, visualisation and spaced repetition?

17 June, 2017 - 13:20
Joined: 4 years 5 months ago

Hi James,

I mainly used imagery which I situated in open spaces around a local shopping centre. Not truly the loci method, since I was not systematically placing things using preselected loci, just using the shopping centre as a general setting.

While I had intended to start using the stored memories for practical purposes within days of memorizing it, I never got around to doing so, so I really was not retrieving the memories at all during the interim period.

The info I was memorizing was a method describing how to systematically generate solutions (value propositions) that match real needs and opportunities in the business world and elsewhere. The general ideas are fairly intuitive, so I had no problem remembering the broad strokes.

In terms of what detailed information I was able to recall prior to reviewing the source material yesterday, I successfully perhaps about 30%. The problem was that it felt like scattered bits of information that had lost much of their sense of coherence. Some of the sense of coherence was coming back into perspective as I mulled over the scattered images. I am sure if I had the patience to continue with that exercise (i.e.: slowly retrieving the individual images and teasing them back into a coherent whole), I would have had much greater success--probably I could have recovered up to 60% of the data. Unfortunately, it exceeded my patience threshold.

Even so, I had a strong feeling that everything was just still there, mostly intact, just slightly degraded, and that a quick review of the source material would be much more efficient than painfully working to recover and reconstruct the memories the hard way.

(Although studies show attempting recovering the hard way would do more to lock the learning in over the long term.)

In terms of how I rate this method. I think it is a valuable technique. Despite the fact that I did not get a stellar result, I felt that the initial effort to encode was quite effective, not to mention easy and rather fun. I think if I use it with just a bit of spaced repetition--such as a quick review after 1 week or so, it would enhance the efficiency when used in conjunction with my existing methods. That is important to me as I am eager to find methods to retain info long term without endless review.

As you may have noticed in my previous comment, I am wondering whether age changes the result. I am not decrepitly old, but it has been a very long time since I stopped being a spring chicken. I am wondering if this method might be even more effective for younger people.

Another factor that may have affected my results was the use of imagery itself. It is possible that I interfered with the spaced learning method by bringing imagery into the equation. Mnemonic imagery has to be decoded. It's possible that this system works best when information is simply understood, not encoded.

Either way, I am pleased with the method. Based on results so far, I would say it is a good ancillary technique and will continue to look for opportunities to experiment with it and evaluate it.


17 June, 2017 - 20:41
Joined: 8 months 2 weeks ago


Thank you for sharing, it's certainly insightful to hear about your use of this method.

In reading yout last reply, you mentioned that there were scattered pictures. Were you walking through your shopping centre memory palace to retrieve these images?

From the usage of this method described in classrooms, mental imagery whilst inputting and retrieving the information was ideal, although the addition of other mnemonc techniques was not mentioned.

I have found that I naturally have done the spaced method a number of times without intentionally doing so, not realising this may be why I remember some things and not others.

18 June, 2017 - 09:29
Joined: 4 years 5 months ago

The shopping centre was more of a backdrop for my scenes than a systematic memory palace where things are placed in prepared locations to be picked up in a predetermined order. Mostly I was chaining images together.

In some spaces, I would place several images chained to each other in an open space such as a parking lot, or an open area inside the mall. Then, when I wanted to review my images, I just surveyed the entire scene, rather than make a mental journey from one loci to another in order to retrieve individual images.

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