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Memory. 2017 Jul;25(6):764-771. doi: 10.1080/09658211.2016.1220579. Epub 2016 Aug 17.

Benefits from retrieval practice are greater for students with lower working memory capacity.

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a Department of Psychology , Washington University in St. Louis , St. Louis , MO , USA.
b Department of Psychology , Fontbonne University , Clayton , MO , USA.
c Department of Psychology , University of Notre Dame , Notre Dame , IN , USA.


We examined the effects of retrieval practice for students who varied in working memory capacity as a function of the lag between study of material and its initial test, whether or not feedback was given after the test, and the retention interval of the final test. We sought to determine whether a blend of these conditions exists that maximises benefits from retrieval practice for lower and higher working memory capacity students. College students learned general knowledge facts and then restudied the facts or were tested on them (with or without feedback) at lags of 0-9 intervening items. Final cued recall performance was better for tested items than for restudied items after both 10 minutes and 2 days, particularly for longer study-test lags. Furthermore, on the 2-day delayed test the benefits from retrieval practice with feedback were significantly greater for students with lower working memory capacity than for students with higher working memory capacity (r = -.42). Retrieval practice may be an especially effective learning strategy for lower ability students.


Testing effect; feedback; lag; retrieval practice; working memory

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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