Any memory that you want to stick around requires reinforcement. Spaced repetition helps build memory and is the reinforcement that your brain needs.
The inner workings of memory are incredibly complex, and there is still much to be discovered about how it works. Some things, though, are known.
New information can get jumbled up, resulting in weak connections within the brain. The jumbled links are worsened when new information is continuously blasted at the learner. When you think about how information is delivered to most learners in school or the adult learning world, we are taught this way. This standard of learning results in confusion and a weaker understanding of the content than if educators used a spaced repetition model.
Since schools and employers aren’t going to provide us with the most effective model for retaining information, we have to take it upon ourselves to use spaced repetition.
Why Does This Work?
It takes time for our brains to make the necessary pathways for new information. Our brains are constantly changing, but that change isn’t immediate. Repetition will create an effective network for storing novel information.
In one study, Robert Wagner had two groups of students memorize a list of words. The first group studied the terms the way students might cram for an exam: one massive push to remember every word. The second group studied the words using spaced repetition over a longer period.
Wagner used functional magnetic resonance imagining (fMRI) to watch the students’ brains recall the information. The first group didn’t do very well. They couldn’t remember as much information, and activity in the brain was much fainter than in the second group. The brain activity demonstrated that the first group’s connections were weaker than the second group, who could recall more, and the fMRI showed more robust action. Spaced repetition works because efficient neural connections are made.
But We Can Do Even Better!
We already know that tying new information to familiar locations like a memory journey is an effective way to make information memorable. We evolved with great locational awareness. Our ancestors needed it to survive. We needed to track food as the seasons changed, so we had to remember locations easily.
We also developed a great awareness of things that moved. If it moves, it can hurt or kill us. That’s why we want to use motion or mind movies when we store new information in a memory palace. We pay more attention to movement, even in our imagination.
You will be an unstoppable force of memory by building good memory palaces and journeys that use the basic principles of exaggeration, motion, substitution, and absurdity, along with space repetition. Combining these simple elements makes learning easy, enjoyable, and effective.
No one knows precisely how long the spaced repetition intervals should be, only that the time between intervals increases with each repetition.
In How to Develop a Brilliant Memory Week by Week, Dominic O’Brien suggests the following spaced repetition intervals:
First review: ASAP!
Second Review: The next day
Third Review: After one week
Fourth Review: After one month
Fifth Review: After three months
Another memory expert, Paul Pimsleur uses a similar schedule but suggests a sixth review after two years.
By combining these elements together, you will form lasting memories and conquer the world of learning!