Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Spacing Effect

In the field of psychology, the spacing effect is the phenomenon whereby mammals more easily remember or learn, even bulk quantities of aspects, in a given amount of time intervals, rather than repeatedly presented in a short period. Practically, this effect suggests that "cramming" (intense, last-minute studying) the night before an exam is not likely to be as effective as studying at intervals over a much longer span of time.

Why does the spacing effect work? There must be some underlying mechanism involving the basic operations of nerve cells, because the spacing effect works with all species, not just humans rehearsing verbal material. But for students who are studying, there is another common-sense reason why spaced repetitions may be beneficial. They focus attention on weakly learned material. A second study session allows special emphasis to be put on information that was not well learned in the first study session. In a single session one never finds out which material is easily forgotten.

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