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Neuropsychol Rehabil. 2012;22(2):138-68. doi: 10.1080/09602011.2011.639619. Epub 2012 Jan 16.

Errorless learning in cognitive rehabilitation: a critical review.

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  • 1Moss Rehabilitation Research Institute, Elkins Park, PA 19027, USA. middleer@einstein.edu

Abstract

Cognitive rehabilitation research is increasingly exploring errorless learning interventions, which prioritise the avoidance of errors during treatment. The errorless learning approach was originally developed for patients with severe anterograde amnesia, who were deemed to be at particular risk for error learning. Errorless learning has since been investigated in other memory-impaired populations (e.g., Alzheimer's disease) and acquired aphasia. In typical errorless training, target information is presented to the participant for study or immediate reproduction, a method that prevents participants from attempting to retrieve target information from long-term memory (i.e., retrieval practice). However, assuring error elimination by preventing difficult (and error-permitting) retrieval practice is a potential major drawback of the errorless approach. This review begins with discussion of research in the psychology of learning and memory that demonstrates the importance of difficult (and potentially errorful) retrieval practice for robust learning and prolonged performance gains. We then review treatment research comparing errorless and errorful methods in amnesia and aphasia, where only the latter provides (difficult) retrieval practice opportunities. In each clinical domain we find the advantage of the errorless approach is limited and may be offset by the therapeutic potential of retrieval practice. Gaps in current knowledge are identified that preclude strong conclusions regarding a preference for errorless treatments over methods that prioritise difficult retrieval practice. We offer recommendations for future research aimed at a strong test of errorless learning treatments, which involves direct comparison with methods where retrieval practice effects are maximised for long-term gains.

PMID:
22247957
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PMCID:
PMC3381647
Free PMC Article
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