The Science

7spell is scientifically designed, and utilizes principles based on decades of research in learning, retention, and psychology. Here is a summary of the theory and research behind 7spell's effectiveness.

Craik, F., and Tulving, E. "Depth of processing and the retention of words in episodic memory." Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, Vol 104(3) (1975): 268-294. Print and PDF.

In this seminal study performed at the University of Toronto, Canada, the authors performed a series of tests in which they gave the study participants a sequence of words to learn, with information related to each word as it appeared in order. They discovered that when the information provided stimulated the participant's brain to process the word on a more involved level (referred to as "deep encoding" or "degree of elaboration" in the study), that word was more effectively learned and remembered. With 7spell, the user is given a wide range of additional information about each spelling word, including the word's definition - one of the key factors in enhanced memory, according to this study - as well as usage examples, synonyms, and antonyms.

Garcia, S.M., Tor, A., and Schiff, T.M. "The Psychology of Competition: A Social Comparison Perspective." Perspectives on Psychological Science, November 2013, 8(6):634-650. Print and web.

Each person is influenced by a unique set of factors related to their own status and progress towards goals, but is also affected to a greater or lesser degree by the achievements and perceived standards of the people around them. This analysis of past and current studies looks at the way people view and are motivated by individual goals as well as societal achievement (competition). The authors conclude that effective use of motivational strategies must take both into account. This is something that 7spell accomplishes by providing each user with the ability to set personal goals, earn reward points, and view their own progress tracking reports, and also to publish all of those results on public social media platforms.

Kivetz, R., Urminsky, O., and Zheng, Y. "The Goal-Gradient Hypothesis Resurrected: Purchase Acceleration, Illusionary Goal Progress, and Customer Retention." Journal of Marketing Research, February 2006, 43(1):39-58. Web.

In a study focusing on the influence of reward-scheme programs on behavior, the authors found that when people see visible progress towards their goals they are more likely to increase the activity required to reach those goals. The study also confirms that most people are also motivated by receiving rewards for completing specific activities, even if those rewards are not immediately transferable to actual material or monetary benefits. Status points, rewards, and real-time progress tracking are all methods used in 7spell to encourage frequent spelling practice by awarding points for the completion of exercises and activities. Because the user can access their progress charts at any time, they will always be able to see how close they are to achieving their personal spelling goals.

Buton, M., Winterbauer, N., and Todd, T. "Relapse processes after the extinction of instrumental learning: Renewal, resurgence, and reacquisition." Behavioural Processes, May 2012, 90(1): 130–141. Print and web.

Instrumental learning, also called "operant conditioning," is a method by which behaviors are learned in connection with a stimulus, a reward, or both. In this research done at the University of Vermont, the authors studied the ways in which the information connected to a specific behavior is retained when the stimulus is removed, and how subsequent repetition or reward reinforces information recall and a resumption of previously learned behaviors. They conclude that there are two primary methods of reinforcing active memory and behavior: by creating a different way to test the subject's memory, and by providing the opportunity for intensive focused repetition of that stimulus-behavior response. These two methods are widely used in the 7spell activities and games to create the link between instruction and memory that is so crucial in effective spelling learning on the student's part.

Xue, G., Mei, L., Chen, C., Lu, Z-L., Poldrack, R., Dong, Q. "Spaced Learning Enhances Subsequent Recognition Memory by Reducing Neural Repetition Suppression." Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience 2011;23(7):1624-1633. Print and web. http://doi:10.1162/jocn.2010.21532

In this study comparing long-term and short-term memory, the study authors tested the neural activity of participants as they memorized a set of images. Half of the study participants used massed learning techniques, in which each new image was presented multiple times in a row; the other half were given the images in a spaced repetition mode, where the images were shown in alternating order. Although each participant saw each image the same number of times, the people in the spaced-repetition exercise were able to accurately remember more images, and for a longer period of time. Repetition is a key technique in learning spelling, and 7spell incorporates spaced repetition in two ways. First, the system uses randomized selection of spelling words from the user's current list to populate the activities and exercises, ensuring an interval between word reviews. Second, the system's Word Discover feature provides pop-up instant review of the words on that list, again in random order. By providing users with multiple opportunities throughout the day to read and review their words, 7spell provides all of the benefits of the spaced repetition methodology in its spelling instruction.

Blocki, J., Cranor, L., Datta, A., and Komanduri, S. "Spaced Repetition and Mnemonics Enable Recall of Multiple Strong Passwords." Cornell University Library, January 3, 2015. PDF.

Spaced repetition is a memory training tool that relies on frequent and consistent review of information; mnemonics is a memory technique that involves multiple ways of looking at that information, such as the incorporation of images or story lines. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University focused on the combination of spaced repetition and mnemonics in evaluating how best to train people to remember specific pieces of information: computer passwords. They found that by combining the two methodologies, the results in both ease of learning and retention were increased. 7spell uses each method separately and together to help users learn and remember new spelling words by using the same words in multiple exercises, presenting spelling words in a variety of formats, and encouraging users to add information related to each word to make a personal connection that helps them to remember that word and its correct spelling.


Ashly Lorenzana: Word Lover, Scrabble Player, and Host of

Categories: Spelling Resources, Tips and Tricks |

Can you finish the New York Times crossword puzzle every day – in pen? Is your closet full of word-based board games? Do you play along with “Countdown” every afternoon, “Wheel of Fortune” every night, and Will Shortz every Sunday morning? If you answered Yes! to any of these questions, then you’ll enjoy visiting Ashly Lorenzana’s word-lovers’ website Along with tips for that game, she’s got links to other Scrabble and word game resources, and a blog full of interesting and unusual Scrabble-related information. We talked to Ashly about Scrabble, spelling skills, and strategies for winning word games.

US: Anyone who has watched the 2004 documentary “Word Wars” about competitive Scrabble players might think that there’s almost more stress than fun in that environment. Why would you like to play in an official Scrabble tournament?

AL: There is no disputing that competitive Scrabble is taken quite seriously by those who play in tournaments. While I have yet to participate in one, I actually have a young cousin who also plays and who attended the 2011 National School Scrabble Championship in Orlando, Florida. While she enjoys playing as a hobby and seemed very excited to attend the championship, she did return home with different feelings on playing competitively. After having a chance to see firsthand the level of determination and dedication these types of players possessed, she basically decided that competitive play wasn’t something she was likely to pursue. Hearing this from a girl barely in middle school just goes to show that even young tournament players are playing to win, and not just as a hobby. That being said, I think I’d still like to give it a try at some point. I still have a long way to go as far as practicing and I definitely need to attend more meetings at my local Scrabble club before I consider entering a real tournament. I figure that if I go into it and give it my best effort without any expectation of winning, then it should be a fun experience regardless of the outcome.

US: You’ve written down some of the things you’ve learned in the e-book “14 Quick and Dirty Scrabble Tips for Casual Players.” Is practicing spelling skills one of those tips?

AL: Spelling is one of the most important elements of being a strong Scrabble player, in my opinion. Poor spelling has no place in a game like Scrabble, and even players who are average in this area will need to hone their skills considerably. While I always did well in school as a child, I did struggle with spelling until I was in High School. Personally, I began to use a technique around that time in which I would memorize the spelling of a word by breaking it down into smaller words whenever possible. For example, the word adolescent can be broken into three smaller words, “a,” “dole,” and “scent.” Obviously this doesn’t work for all words that are difficult to spell, but it has helped me a great deal when it comes to remembering how to spell those words which I seem to struggle with most.

US: You’ve got lots of links to different word game sites and Scrabble sites. What games do you play online or with friends, just for fun?

AL: I love playing tons of different word games, both online and off. I am always on the lookout for new games that challenge my word skills in all areas. I have several Scrabble buddies I play with online, and a few I play with offline regularly as well. I think one of the very first word games I came to love was a game called Letter Linker, which was created by a company called GameHouse. I first played it around 2005 and at the time, I didn’t have internet access so I would pass the hours playing this addicting game and spending hours connecting the letters in the grid to form new words. As a point of reference, it is very similar to the classic game Boggle, but the grid is larger and changes in shape. I also love games that challenge my word knowledge and help me build my vocabulary.

US: Some of the world’s best Scrabble players have come from Thailand and actually don’t speak English all that well. Does this mean that winning word games comes from simply memorizing lists of words and how to spell them?

AL: I’ll admit that it does kind of surprise me that some of the top Scrabble players are not native or even fluent English speakers. I think that this is pretty solid proof that Scrabble is indeed very much about spelling and knowing the words, but what I find shocking is the sheer number of words these players have been able to memorize without much of a working English vocabulary to draw from. That impresses me more than anything, I would love to know their secrets for storing so many foreign words in their memories to tell you the truth. This seems even more mind-boggling when I consider the lack of similarity between English and the Thai language. The challenge of memorizing even a dozen words in a language so foreign to my own makes my head ache!

US: Your latest blog posts talk about ways to incorporate Scrabble into arts, crafts, photography, and even baking that will appeal to the “word nerds” out there. Do you think that this would be a good way to get kids interested in Scrabble and other word games?

AL: I hadn’t thought of using Scrabble crafts as a way to get younger people interested in trying or playing Scrabble, but I think that’s an outstanding idea. Since I don’t have children of my own, it hadn’t occurred to me but I remember being a Camp Fire Kid in grade school and could definitely have started earlier on my love of the game if someone had brought along a Scrabble board to one of our meetings and maybe suggested making Scrabble jewelry or even cookies. Baking Scrabble treats could also be a fun treat to bring along to meetings for younger players. I think this is worth exploring for parents and even teachers, now that you mention it.

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