"Every perception is to some degree an act of creation, and every act of memory is to some degree an act of imagination."
-- Gerald Edelman, Second Nature: Brain Science and Human Knowledge
4 Avoid orphan cards:How to best help users when they forget the answer to a question？Avoid orphan cards:Improving the mnemonic medium: making better cardsHow can we develop transformative tools for thought？2020-10-18Journal
Above we discussed three principles of good question-and-answer construction. Of course, it's also possible to make more structural modifications to the nature of the cards themselves. Here's three questions suggesting experiments in this vein:
How can we ensure users don't just learn surface features of questions? One question in Quantum Country asks: “Who has made progress on using quantum computers to simulate quantum field theory?” with the answer: “John Preskill and his collaborators”. This is the only “Who…?” question in the entire essay, and many users quickly learn to recognize it from just the “Who…?” pattern, and parrot the answer without engaging deeply with the question. This is a common failure mode in memory systems, and it's deadly to understanding. One response, which we plan to trial soon, is to present the question in multiple different-but-equivalent forms. So the user first sees the question as “Who has made progress \[etc\]?”; but then the second time the question is presented as a fill-in-the-blanks: “\\\_ and his collaborators have made progress on using quantum computers to simulate quantum field theory.” And so on, multiple different forms of the question, designed so the user must always engage deeply with the meaning of the question, not its superficial appearance. Ultimately, we'd like to develop a library of techniques for identifying when this learning-the-surface-feature pattern is occurring, and for remedying it.