Less Wrong is a community blog devoted to refining the art of human rationality. Please visit our About page for more information.

[prize] new contest for Spaced Repetition literature review ($365+)

15 Post author: jsalvatier 18 June 2011 06:31PM

Update: the prize is now finished!

The previous contest was poorly formatted for eliciting the most useful reviews of the spaced repetition literature so I've created a new slightly different contest. 

I'm interested in making projects happen on Less Wrong. In order to find out what works and to inspire others to try things too, I'm sponsoring the following small project:

Spaced Repetition is often mentioned on Less Wrong as a technique for adding facts to memory. I've started using Anki and it certainly seems to be useful. However, I haven't seen a good summary of evidence on Spaced Repetition and I would like to change that.

I hereby offer a prize, currently $385, to the best literature review submitted by August 1st. 'Best' will be judged by voting with discussion beforehand by the Seattle LW meetup group. People are not allowed to vote for their own submissions.

The summary should address questions such as:

  • What spacing is best?
  • How much does spaced repetition actually help memory?
  • Does spaced repetition have hidden benefits or costs?
  • Does the effectiveness vary across domains? How much? 
  • Is there research on the kinds of questions that work best? Especially for avoiding 'guessing the password' and memorizing the card per se rather than the material.
  • What questions do researchers think are most important?
  • Is there any interesting ongoing research? If so, what is it on?
  • What, if any, questions do researchers think it is important to answer? Are there other unanswered questions that would jump out at a smart person?
  • What does spaced repetition not do that people might expect it to?

The post should summarize the state of current evidence and provide citations to back up the claims in the article. Referencing both academic and non-academic research is encouraged. Lukeprog's The Science of Winning At Life sequence contains several examples of good literature review posts.

If you think you would benefit from the result of this project, please add to the prize! You can contribute to the prize on the ChipIn page.

If you have suggestions, questions or comments, please leave them in the comments. Prizes demotivating? Due date too soon/far? Specification too vague? Judgement procedure not credible enough?

This project is tagged with the 'project' tag and listed on the Projects wiki page.

Comments (17)

Comment author: Antisuji 18 June 2011 11:11:39PM 6 points [-]

Contributed $10.

Comment author: jsalvatier 19 June 2011 01:05:25AM 2 points [-]

Thanks! :D

Comment author: Dr_Manhattan 19 June 2011 02:03:37AM 5 points [-]

+10. no thanks needed, this is pure joyful selfishness ;)

Comment author: Benquo 24 June 2011 09:08:05PM 2 points [-]

Contributed $5

Comment author: gwern 18 June 2011 09:12:58PM 6 points [-]

I think this is a better setup. I'm in.

Comment author: BenLowell 27 June 2011 05:18:03AM 2 points [-]

Here is an article I thought would be helpful:


Comment author: gwern 01 August 2011 01:22:36PM 0 points [-]

Thanks, it was.

Comment author: jsalvatier 18 June 2011 09:45:46PM 1 point [-]


Comment author: gwern 01 August 2011 01:24:18PM *  4 points [-]

OK, my entry is finished and available at http://www.gwern.net/Spaced%20repetition#literature-review

(I chose to stick it on my site rather than in a LW Discussion or Article because I think it makes more sense in a context, and because I really hate the edit box on LW - I probably would cut my wrists trying to get the footnotes to work. You may need to force-refresh if you have been there before).

I believe I hit all the points requested except for the research questions - nothing obvious occurred to me that the researchers missed, and there's so much research I'm not sure what they consider really important besides the fixed vs expanding question, which as I explain, is not of much interest to us practical folks.

Comment author: jsalvatier 08 August 2011 03:58:33AM 0 points [-]

I think you should make a post which quotes your article and links to it.

Comment author: gwern 08 August 2011 04:00:38PM 0 points [-]

I don't know what to quote, exactly, so I settled for linking: http://lesswrong.com/r/discussion/lw/718/spaced_repetition_review_my_entry/

Comment author: jsalvatier 08 August 2011 04:10:51PM 0 points [-]


Comment author: jsalvatier 01 August 2011 01:39:32PM 0 points [-]


Comment author: Duke 21 July 2011 03:23:31AM *  3 points [-]

What is the status of this contest? Has there been another submission since mine? If not, then I would like my submission re-considered.

If, in fact, the spirit of the contest was to accomplish something, then, in retrospect, the value of my submission should have increased. I knocked out the article in a matter of days (here we are now, many weeks later) and it received a net of 14 upvotes. It may not have met the initial standards of the judges, but in light of new evidence--specifically, that there has been zero submission since--I think my accomplishment deserves renewed consideration.

Comment author: gwern 02 August 2011 08:01:49PM 2 points [-]

As the only other person to enter the contest (inasmuch as it's now August 2nd and no one else has turned in anything), I'd appreciate your thoughts on my entry. Regardless of the verdict, I hope to continue to improve it.

(For example: I'm not really satisfied by the quotes from the reviews about the limits of spaced repetition, but they seem to be paywalled and thatwill take time to overcome.)

Comment author: jsalvatier 22 July 2011 02:52:33PM 1 point [-]

Yes, we will consider your submission too.

Comment author: Duke 23 July 2011 12:57:43AM 0 points [-]