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The spacing effect: Implications for relearning

By Dana Michelle Schneider


Experiments reported here examined the effects of distributing practice during relearning. Specifically, they provide an initial test of the prediction by R. A. Bjork and C. O. Fritz (1994), based on the new theory of disuse (R. A. Bjork & E. L. Bjork, 1992), that spacing practice is not important for relearning. In Experiment 1a, the speed to respond to simple numeric multiplication problems was measured after subjects practiced the problems under three different relearning schedules: (1) A massed condition in which all of the practice on a specific problem occurred consecutively, (2) a spaced condition in which there was a uniform spacing of one intervening problem between each practice on a particular problem, and (3) an expanded condition in which the practice was spaced in an expanded fashion, such that first there were no intervening problems between practices, then there were 4 problems, followed by 8. No significant differences among these three conditions were found. In Experiment 1b, original learning on an analogous task, mental arithmetic involving letters rather than numbers, was performed under the same three learning schedules. A spacing effect was found under the original learning conditions of Experiment 1b. Experiment 2 was similar to Experiment 1a, except that the instructions placed more stress on accuracy in order to avoid problems associated with a speed/accuracy trade-off. As with Experiment 1a, there was no significant effect of condition. The results provide preliminary support for Bjork and Fritz's prediction regarding the distribution of practice during relearning. The findings are encouraging from a practical standpoint and support the notion that level of expertise is an important factor in research on long-term retention

Topics: Experimental psychology, Cognitive psychology
Year: 1997
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