If learning were easy, everyone would be smart and successful. Since it’s not easy it takes us a lot of effort, commitment and motivation to nail it.
How does our brain decide what is worth remembering and what is not? Why do we remember some bits of gossip perfectly well while information related to our work might just disappear?
It turns out that time intervals between learning new information are really important. In fact, the longer the time gap is, the better.
One of the simplest ways to foster learning is to space it. Although this fact was first discovered back in the 19th century, it is not yet broadly applied. Let’s take a closer look at what it means and if we can really use it.
Spacing effect boosts memory
Simply put, if you plan to study the same information again try to organize your training sessions with as much time between them as possible.
It really seems counterintuitive and it’s a bit hard to believe it can work. We’re used to think that the lesser time passes between the sessions, the easier it is for us to memorize. Research however, proves quite the opposite. Many tests showed that long-term memory’s capabilities enhance by 300% if the spacing rule is followed. Can we really afford ourselves to waste such an opportunity?
Cramming doesn’t work
What most of us do when it comes to bigger learning (like passing an exam or getting ready for a product presentation) is trying to push as much information in our heads as possible just before the test. Cramming is probably a single learning technique that will never disappear.
One really huge disadvantage of cramming is that when trying to memorize large volumes of information at once, you do nothing but overwhelm your brain and leave it little odds to actually process that data.
It’s hardly surprising then that on the important day you fail to remember necessary things: you have a general idea you’ve read about it but the details aren’t there.
Meanwhile, time gaps really help
On the contrary, when information enters our brain gradually it sticks to memory for far longer. Studying for an hour today, then looking to it next weekend, then a week later – this is a perfect pace for our memory. Moreover, studies prove that it wouldn’t take us more energy and effort.
The reasons for such curious patterns are not yet fully discovered but it most likely has something to do with the physiology of cells. Some researchers suggest that forgetting isn’t really that bad: we forget, then go back and re-learn and it somehow stays in memory for longer.
Making time gaps between studying session has another advantage. You can mix things up a bit so your brain doesn’t get tired of large chunks of similar information. You can also approach the same problem from a new perspective. Spaced intervals mean we can find a new solution to the problem, the one which not necessarily repeats the previous solution. It therefore shakes our thinking patterns.
Spacing effect in advertising
The same goes with commercials. It turns out that people are able to remember information about a product if it is repeated at certain time gaps. That’s why one should think twice before investing into frequently repeated, mass advertising since people won’t be able to better remember it all the same.
On the contrary, carefully spaced ads can be much more effective and stay in the consumers’ conscience for longer.
Although the spacing effect seems to be so astonishingly simple, traditional education ignores it for the most part in which case it’s high time to start using it on your own. Just review the data you want to memorize at the right intervals. This way you can learn more and forget less.
Moreover, this won’t be things which you crammed into your short-term memory only to forget it the next day. This would be a fundamental knowledge which you can rely on and which can make you an expert in your field and also help you extend your skills to other areas as well.