Anki: Have Some Repetition With Your Repetition

Learning is context-sensitive, even if you use repetition. This means that if you try to remember a fact in a different context than the one you memorised it in, recall can be difficult. For example, I always remembered the names of the famous sex researchers William Masters and Virginia Johnson as “Masters and Johnson”. One day a person asked me “what was the name of the woman in that famous sex researcher couple?” and I could not come up with her name! I had to mentally recall an image of the two of them first. Then I needed to have “Masters and Johnson” pop up in my head. And finally I could answer “Johnson….. Virginia Johnson!”. Painful.

Repetition With Your Repetition

Anki is a spaced-repetition program. This means it will provide you with facts you want to memorise at specific intervals to make memorisation possible. However, Anki will not provide you with different contexts unless you program these yourself. Obviously, you’ll probably do some of your reviews in different settings (at home, in the train, at your local coffee place). But if you only have one card for the fact you want to remember, you’ll memorise it only in the format of your card.

The answer to this problem is to make various cards for one bit of information.

An example. I needed to remember that the occipital lobe is involved in visual perception. So I created multiple cards, some with cloze deletions, some with pictures, some with information about other areas of the brain, to create as many connections and contexts as possible.


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