Format

Send to

Choose Destination
J Exp Psychol Learn Mem Cogn. 2009 Jul;35(4):989-98. doi: 10.1037/a0015729.

Unsuccessful retrieval attempts enhance subsequent learning.

Author information

1
Department of Psychology, University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA 90095, USA. nkornell@ucla.edu

Abstract

Taking tests enhances learning. But what happens when one cannot answer a test question-does an unsuccessful retrieval attempt impede future learning or enhance it? The authors examined this question using materials that ensured that retrieval attempts would be unsuccessful. In Experiments 1 and 2, participants were asked fictional general-knowledge questions (e.g., "What peace treaty ended the Calumet War?"). In Experiments 3-6, participants were shown a cue word (e.g., whale) and were asked to guess a weak associate (e.g., mammal); the rare trials on which participants guessed the correct response were excluded from the analyses. In the test condition, participants attempted to answer the question before being shown the answer; in the read-only condition, the question and answer were presented together. Unsuccessful retrieval attempts enhanced learning with both types of materials. These results demonstrate that retrieval attempts enhance future learning; they also suggest that taking challenging tests-instead of avoiding errors-may be one key to effective learning.

PMID:
19586265
DOI:
10.1037/a0015729
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for American Psychological Association
Loading ...
Support Center