Sunday, July 25, 2010

Repitition learning

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Repetition is a function of repeating something over and over, hoping you ultimately remember it. And once you have used the information, it disappears. Suppose you go through the process of memorizing the order of cards in a deck. You then go to a party and perform the trick, and everyone is amazed by your great memory! Now try the same trick three months later, or six months later. You won’t be able to remember. Why not?
When you create a memory, a pathway is created between your brain cells. It is like clearing a path through a dense forest. The first time that you do it, you have to fight your way through the undergrowth. If you don’t travel that path again, very quickly it will become overgrown and you may not even realise that you have been down that path. If however, you travel along that path before it begins to grow over, you will find it easier than your first journey along that way.
Successive journeys down that path mean that eventually your track will turn into a footpath, which will turn into a lane, which will turn into a road, and into a motorway and so on. It is the same with your memory: the more times that you repeat patterns of thought, for example when learning new information, the more likely you will be able to recall that information. So repetition is a key part of learning.
Repetition principle
Principle
If something happens often enough, I will eventually be persuaded.
How it works
Play it again, Sam. Music repeated gets under our skin. Advertisements repeated replay themselves when we see the product. Repetition of things has a distinct effect on us.
Pattern
Our brains are excellent pattern-matchers and reward us for using this very helpful skill. Repetition creates a pattern, which consequently and naturally grabs our attention.
Familiarity
Repetition creates familiarity, but does familiarity breed contempt? Although it can happen, the reality is that familiarity leads to liking in far more case than it does to contempt. When we are in a supermarket, we are far more likely to buy familiar brands, even if we have never tried the product before. Advertisers know this very well.
Not scarcity
An effect that can happen is that repetition repeals any scarcity effect, making something initially less attractive. When I work with a famous person, my initial state of being overawed might soon be replaced by dislike of their annoying habits. With time, however (if they are not too obnoxious) I will probably get used to them and even get to appreciate and like the better parts of their nature.
Understanding
Repetition can also lead to understanding, as it gives time for the penny to drop. What at first may be strange, after repeated exposure becomes clear and understandable.
This is important for companies bringing innovative new products to the market where users may initially unfamiliar with the product or its usage.
Memory
Remember learning your multiplication tables at junior school? We have to repeat things more than once for them to finally sink into our memories. Our short-term memories are notoriously short-term and can forget something (like a person’s name) in less than a second. Repetition is one of getting things into longer-term memory.
Convincing
Some people just have to do things several times before they make up their mind. Think about the last time you bought a pair of shoes. Did you pick them then put them down several times before trying them on. Did you come back to try them again? If so, you are in good company. Many people have to repeat things several times before they get convinced. Three times is a common number.
Sharp sales people know this when they show you something then something else, then back to the first thing a few times.
Nagging
We can also get persuaded in a negative repetitive way. All children know that if they repeat a request often enough, their parents will cave in. Some remember this when they grow up and get married–the nagging spouse is a legendary icon.
Cues
As Pavlov discovered with his dogs, with repetition you can connect a cue or trigger with a selected action. This can be a color, a shape, a tune or a host of other things. The ideal that advertisers search for is that when you see the product in the shop, the pleasant or funny feelings that the advert evoked are re-awoken, making you somehow want to buy the product (and preferably lots of it!).
Music
A core principle of music is repetition. It appears in runs, trills and stanzas, as well as in pounding rock rhythms and dance music.
People dancing in clubs and waltz-halls commonly go into trance-like states. Music, rhythm and repetition have a hypnotic effect that can lull people into following a pattern in unthinking ways.
Trance
Repetition is also a basis for trance states and is consequently a basis of hypnosis and hypnotic techniques.
Repetition is a function of repeating something over and over, hoping you ultimately remember it. And once you have used the information, it disappears. Let’s use the card deck scenario as an example.
Repetition does not work because it won’t train your brain to improve your overall memory skills. It is perfectly useful to recite a list or memorize a short speech. This is known as short term recall. Repetition helps with short term recall but not as a long term memory improvement technique.
While repetition is one aspect of short term recall, the technique is not a long term memory improvement solution. The most effective technique is methodical and consistent brain training. But don’t mistake the brain training process as arduous or boring. It’s actually quite engaging, stimulating, and fun!
.. Research background
There has been a great deal of research on how different spacing of repetitions in time affects the strength of memory and how the resulting findings could be applied in the practice of effective learning. It has been predicted, and to a large degree confirmed, that by changing the spacing of repetitions, a substantial gain in the effectiveness of learning might be obtained .
A major breakthrough in the study of optimum spacing of repetitions came with the discovery of the spacing effect which has been found under a wide range of conditions, and which refers to the fact that sparsely spaced repetition produce a better performance in memory tests than do densely spaced repetitions .
However, studies reporting a robust spacing effect in classroom conditions are the exception rather than the rule . This follows directly from the fact that the spacing effect is subject to certain boundary conditions which limit its universal applicability. It has been found that with increasing spacing, the performance in memory tests improves only to a certain point after which it gradually decreases . The most convincing interpretation of this fact is that as the spacing increases, the initial memory trace becomes less and less accessible. Despite the reduced accessibility, in distributed spacing, the repetition produces an increased memory effect.
However, after the spacing reaches some critical point, the memory trace becomes completely inaccessible, and the processing of the to-be-remembered item is similar to the one that takes place at initial presentation . In other words, in spaced repetition, a trade-off between the spacing effect and forgetting must be taken into consideration. As Bahrick pointly noticed, the optimum inter-repetition interval is likely to be the longest interval that avoids retrieval failures, and that finding optimum intervals will yield major contributions of memory research to education .
Optimum spacing of repetitions
Though some theoretical models suggest that the strength of memory should increase gradually with successive repetitions , the major shortcoming of most of the research that has been done on the effects of inter-repetition intervals on the performance in memory tasks was application of equally spaced repetition . Another shortcoming that makes it hard to collect data concerning optimum spacing of repetitions is the fact that most of the available studies considered inter-repetition intervals on the order of seconds, minutes and hours. Spacing repetitions in periods longer than one week has been very scarcely studied .
A major exception to the rule was the report by Bahrick, who studied the effects of spacing in an experiment spanning 14 months, and who measured the resulting knowledge retention in a follow-up study after the period of 8 years .1 The third shortcoming often found in the research on spacing was the lack of consideration for the difficulty of particular items . Fourth limitation of the research on spacing was a small number of to-be-remembered items that were considered in the process of learning. .
Spacing effect
Let us have a closer look at theoretical implications of the spacing effect,They could be grouped into the following three categories:
• encoding variability theories (differential encoding theories)
• voluntary deficient-processing theories (voluntary attention-attenuation theory, effort theory, etc.)
• involuntary habituation theories (involuntary deficient-processing theory, consolidation theory, habituation-recovery theory, construction theory, etc.)
Involuntary habituation
Let us have a look at the possible advantages of the involuntary habituation of memory from the evolutionary standpoint. The obvious value of forgetting is to prevent the nervous system from running out of the memory storage. The benefit coming from strengthening memories by means of repetition is that only most frequently encountered tasks are remembered. If we consider the fact that in real life a twice-encountered task is more probable to be encountered again than a once-encountered task, which is more probable to be encountered than a never-met task,
we can conclude that the optimum action of the memory system should result in multiplying the period of the retrievability of a memory trace each time a task is encountered. In other words, the progressive spacing of repetitions stands the greatest chance to be validated on evolutionary grounds. The possible value of the post-repetition habituation of memories comes from the fact that a substantial increase in memory strength at each exposition does not seem to be advantageous for survivability. It would result in unnecessary waste of the storage for lifelong memories produced for massed phenomena which are transitory. In other words, the habituation of memories that follows a repetition seems to ensure that the brain maximizes the average probability of reencountering the remembered tasks, i.e. it maximizes the usefulness of memories

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