One of the first memorization techniques that we are taught as children is to repeat something over and over again either out loud or in our minds. This turned out to be a great technique for everything from remembering the letters of the alphabet to learning how to count and even for higher level techniques such as how to multiply or divide. As you get older and wiser, you may think that you never have to use such a simple type of memorization technique again – but in fact, you probably use repetition far more than you realize.
That being said, what is the basis of repetition, how does it work, how can you make yourself into a more successful repeater, and what are some great situations to use repetition instead of another memorization technique?
In an effort to help people turn their short term memories into long term memories, the repetition memorization technique was born. If information that you learn has not been reinforced in your mind in any way whatsoever, it will simply exist in your short term memory banks. After anywhere from short periods of time like twenty seconds to a bit longer span of time like a week has elapsed, you simply will not be able to recall that information any longer, leaving you wondering what exactly it was that you were supposed to remember in the first place.
We have all seen this type of situation on sitcoms and various other television shows where the family man forgets his wife’s birthday or their wedding anniversary. This is because he never bothered to commit that date to memory. To him, it was just a date that happened a long time ago and apparently was not important enough to keep in his long term memory. Now, if he had used some sort of reinforcing device such as repetition, he would be able to retain the memory of his wife’s birthday or their anniversary in his long term memory banks so that years and years can go by without him ever forgetting the date again.
Essentially, there are two different types of repetition that you can use as memorization techniques. The first type is probably the one that you are most familiar with. After someone has told you some piece of relevant information that you need to know, all you have to do is repeat it over and over again in your mind so that you can commit it to memory. Some people find that they have to do this process only three or four times while others need to repeat something at least ten times or more if they hope to ever remember it.
On the other hand, there is a second type of repetition which some people use to not only remember certain items of information but also turn that information into more than just memories – but into knowledge as well. This type of memorization technique is commonly known as spaced repetition, but it also has other, lesser used names such as expanding rehearsal, repetition scheduling and graduated intervals. We will cover more of the basics of this latter repetition technique later on.