April 29, 2019

The Psychology Of Memory & How to Remember Everything You Learn

Test season is closer than we'd like, perhaps trying 'Anki' flash cards might help?

The Psychology Of Memory & How to Remember Everything You Learn

If you are one of the cool kids at uni, that took a Psychology class (yes, completely biased), you might have come across a guy by the name of Hermann Ebbinghaus.

Using himself as the subject, Hermann would memorise lists of nonsense syllables, wait for a specific amount of time and then re-test his knowledge. Every time this process was repeated, his knowledge built on the previous learning and he was able to retain the information for a bit longer.

What does this all mean and how is it connected to your exam performance at university?

Well, what Hermann discovered was what we now call "the forgetting curve".


Case Example for the 'Forgetting Curve'

Let's say you are writing notes during a History lesson (just roll with it, guys) and it is very important you remember that the Treaty of Waitangi was first signed on 1840.

Due to the nature of the "forgetting curve" we are only able to retain that information for a little while before it leaves our memory. On average you will probably remember the date for 24 hours.

How You Can Traditionally Improve Your Memory

  1. Now if I remind you of this information 23h and 59 minutes later, that initial knowledge will be reinforced and you will gain another 24 hours.
  2. Repeat this process and you can start to increase the waiting period. From 24 hrs you can move to 48h then 5 days, then a week and so on.

Now this probably sounds like a bit too much work. Who has time to calculate how long it has been since they were last exposed to certain information? No one...

Below I have the modern and free solution for you, and its name is Anki.


What is Anki?

With a deceptively simple interface, Anki is open sourced, meaning FREE, and you can download and sync it across your laptop and phone.

All you need to do is start adding flashcards and Anki's fancy algorithm will determine how often it needs to keep showing you this information.

My Anki Home Page

On my homepage we can see how I have categorised the first 6 decks of cards under "School Subjects" and then added extra categories that I find interesting, like Geography and Photography Trivia.

Soon, going through your flashcards will become similar to a game.

I don't have to see this flashcard for another 8.2 MONTHS! 

As you can see on the photo above, if I decide that I do not remember the card at all, it will go back to the beginning of the pile and be shown to me in 10 minutes. However, if I know it extremely well I don't have to see it for another 8 MONTHS!

You can add photos, diagrams, close deletion sentences or be prompted to type in the answer.

Before going full nerd and boring you with all the ways you can utilise this incredible tool, I am going to focus on some of the fun things you can go ahead and add now. No need to type anything!

Someone has already created and shared these decks of cards for free!

FREE Decks

(1) Ultimate Geography

The easiest way to learn the capitals of the world, countries flags and how to find them on a map.

(2) Amino Acid Flashcards

Are you annoyingly smart and studying biochemistry for some reason? Here is the easiest way to memorise the amino acid structures.

(3) 4000 Essential English Words

Are you trying to learn more English vocabulary so you can amaze your lecturers and score an A? Someone has already done all the hard work for you and combined all the words you need to know into one easy to use list.

(4) 16000 French Sentences

Did you take 3 years of French at school only to have forgotten how to introduce yourself? Refresh your memory with one of the thousands of foreign languages deck available.

Other Fun Decks To Create

  • Birthdays and Important Family Dates (anniversaries, religious holidays etc)
  • Learn How To Code
  • Human Body/Anatomy Parts
  • Works of Art

Did you know about Anki before today? Are you intrigued enough to start using it?

Let me know in the comments below or find me where I share more of my writings on Bachelor of Travel and Definitely Greece.