Can you figure out a smarter way of learning?

November 19th, 2008 - 12:39 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Nov 19 (IANS) Do you aspire to excel in your studies, besides recalling dry and dreary facts more readily?If the answer is yes, then space your lessons well, but avoid cramming which kills all the joy of learning and is not effective in the long run.

So says the result of a study led by Hal Pashler and John Wixted, professors of psychology at University of California, San Diego (UCSD).

“It appears no longer premature for psychologists to offer some rough practical guidelines to those who wish to use study time in the most efficient way possible to promote long-term retention,” they wrote.

More than 1,000 subjects participated in three sessions. In the first session, they were taught a set of such obscure but true facts as Norway is the European nation that consumes the most spicy Mexican food and Rudyard Kipling invented snow golf.

The second session was a review of the same facts. The time between the sessions ranged from several minutes to several months. Study time was held constant in all the conditions. After some further delay, up to about one year, subjects were then tested.

Not surprisingly, when the interval between the second session and the test was increased, memory got worse - reflecting the familiar curve of forgetting.

The interesting finding, however, was that increasing the time between the study sessions reduced the rate of forgetting.

This reduction in forgetting was very large - sometimes increasing the likelihood that information would be recalled in the final session by 50 percent, said a UCSD release.

“If you want to remember information for just a week, it is probably best if study sessions are spaced out over a day or two. On the other hand, if you want to remember information for a year, it is best for learning to be spaced out over about a month,” said Pashler.

The study was published in this month’s issue of Psychological Science.

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