Breakout: Spaced Repetition

This Breakout Discussion is about familiar and novel applications of spaced repetition as a self-tracking and memory practice.

Thank you to those that came to the breakout! It was a good knowledge-sharing session. There was a range of experience, from one person who had never heard of spaced repetition to one person who uses it every day. Most of the people in the room had used it briefly, or knew about it, but have never made it a part of a daily routine. SuperMemo, Anki, and Memrise seemed to be the tools most used by the group.

There were two major themes during the discussion: what can spaced repetition be used for, and what is the value of it? Some of the novel ways that SR has been used are remembering the faces of authors of books and articles that one reads, as well as, creating flashcards out of what one did on a particular day. There was also some brainstorming of potential uses, such as remembering information about people one has met, or using it to keep in mind projects that one would like to do.

Regarding the value of memorizing information in a world where information is a search away, a couple things were explored. One is that information can be searched, but most breakthroughs come from connecting ideas together. So, by retaining what one has already learned, it makes it easier to make connections with new ideas as they are encountered.

It was also mentioned that SR can be used to change your relationship with a subject. One person told of how he tried to multiple times to learn Spanish with poor results. His conclusion was that he just wasn’t good at learning languages. After using SR to build his vocabulary, he had great results and changed his self-assessment. It wasn’t that he was bad at languages, he just needed a better process. Another example of how memorization can change one’s relationship to a subject is memorizing poetry. Holding a poem in memory changes one’s relationship to it. Adding a poem to one’s repertoire creates a sense of ownership over the poem.

However, it was acknowledged that where spaced repetition is fragile is that for it to be most effective, it must be done every day. And when one neglects their SR system for a while, when he/she comes back to it, there is an overwhelming number of cards to be reviewed, so it is then abandoned. This is a problem that, so far, does not seem to have a good solution.

Tools mentioned:

Other resources:
Gary Wolf’s article on the creator of SuperMemo:
The QS Primer spaced repetition:
Gwern’s academic resources: