Archive for November, 2009

Practice, Repetition and Memory

Jack Cheng nails it in his post Thirty Minutes a Day. I’ve talked a lot about the benefits of incremental activity, repetition, habit, etc. but Cheng explains beautifully why all of this works, with reference to the work of famed language educator, Paul Pimsleur. Pimsleurs method of Graduated Interval Recall models how well-timed repetitions of information aid memory.

Simply put, we forget stuff unless we repeat it and the more we repeat it sooner the less we have to repeat it later. This is why I have to practice a new technique on the guitar (or lately the ukelele) daily for a while or I lose it, but I can easily play something familiar that I haven’t done in months. I suspect the frequency of repetition vs. memorability is related to the amount of time it takes to form a habit.

Another implication of this principle is that it should be possible to stagger learning experiences. In other words, it would be best to start learning only one new thing at a time, but since the repetition of lessons gets more spread out over time it wouldn’t be long before there was plenty of time to pick up a new skill or practice.

Jack Cheng explains all of this much more eloquently than I have, so be sure to check out his article. Then read it again in a week, and again a month from then, and again six months later…

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