The Forgetting Curve, 'Spacing Effect' and what it all means for you! 


RecallPlus revises using the Spacing Effect, keeps track of your personal forgetting curves, and in the Expert Edition, uses them to predict your study outcomes!

For you to do the minimal number of revisions AND KNOW YOUR STUFF, the interval between revisions should be optimised. If you have 1000 things to learn, leave it to the computer to keep track of when each of the 1000 items needs revision, so that you can decrease your total revisions by a factor of 10.

How does forgetting work.

In order to fix the problem of forgetting, you must first understand it.
Forgetting is something which starts to occur immediately after we learn something and most of what we have learned is forgotten within hours.

Images of Forgetting
Pictures of the Ebbinghaus Forgetting curve. Picture shown at the University of Florida website.
Pictures of the Ebbinghaus Forgetting curve. Picture 1 shown at the Purdue University website.

Repetition... the mother of learning?

While this old saying might portray a simple view of learning, it nevertheless highlights the importance of reviewing your material.
The information above would be a very depressing thing if it were not for the fact that the second time you review material, it is forgotten much more slowly, and the subsequent times it decays slower again.
This then is why we find that we can remember more if we revise material.

When should I revise for optimal learning? ... The 'Spacing Effect'.

What has been found is that if you revise a piece of information a number of times in a short period of time, that your retention of that material is less than if you space out the revisions of that material with an ever increasing interval, BUT you must also revise BEFORE you forget the material!
This is known as the 'Spacing Effect'.

RecallPlus Study Software has been specifically designed (and patented) to keep track of each individual piece of information on each card you develop.. be it a simple binary flashcard like question and answer card OR a complex Flow diagram or Mind Map or Concept Map like diagram.

RecallPlus ALSO keeps track of your personal forgetting curves, and in the Expert Edition, uses them to predict your study outcomes!

So practically speaking, what should I do to use this 'Spacing Effect' to help me?

As well as using the suggestions to do with your overall Study technique and learning and memory techniques you should also take advantage of the 'Spacing Effect' by revising each piece of your notes at an increasing interval.
Some things are better done with an appropriate tool and this is one of them. It is efficient to use a computer to keep track of all of the pieces of information that you are trying to learn.

There are many programs to do this... mostly flashcard programs e.g. 'Supermemo' is one of the most popular and long lived examples.
RecallPlus however will allow you to take advantage of the 'Spacing effect' in not just question/answer scenarios, but also more complex things like full Flow diagrams or Concept Maps.


References for Forgetting and Repetition
The boring truth about never forgetting

Online References Spacing Effect
The Spacing effect on memory in persons with TBI(full ref below)

Offline References Spacing Effect
Evidence for the Spacing Effect.
Glenberg A.M. (1977) Influences or the retrieval processes on the spacing effect in free recall. J. of Exp. Psychol. 3: 282-294
Hintzman D.L. (1974) Theoretical implications of the spacing effect. In: Theories in cognitive psychology: The Loyola Symposium (Ed.R.L. Solso), p. 77-99
Toppino T.C, Kasserman J.E., Mracek W.A (1991) The effect of Spacing Repetitions on the Recognition Memory of Young Children and Adults. J. of Exp. Child Psychol. 51: 123-138
Hilliary F.G Et Al (2003) Spacing of Repetitions Improves Learning and Memory After Moderate and Severe TBI. J of Clin. and Exp. NeuroPsychol. 25(1): 49-58 (as above internet link)

Specific Suggestions about calculating intervals for the 'Spacing Effect'
Bahrick H.P.,Phelps E. (1987) Retention of Spanish vocabulary over 8 years. J. of Exp. Psychol. 13: 344-349
Atkinson R. (1972) Optimizing the learning of a second language vocabulary. J. of Exp Psychol. 96: 124-129
Wozniak, P.A., Gorzelańczyk, E.J., (1994) Optimization of repetition spacing in the practice of learning. Acta Neurobiol. Exp., 54: 59-62