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J Exp Psychol Learn Mem Cogn. 2011 Sep;37(5):1250-7. doi: 10.1037/a0023436.

Spaced retrieval: absolute spacing enhances learning regardless of relative spacing.

Author information

1
Department of Psychological Sciences, Purdue University, 703 Third Street, West Lafayette, IN 47907-2081, USA. karpicke@purdue.edu

Abstract

Repeated retrieval enhances long-term retention, and spaced repetition also enhances retention. A question with practical and theoretical significance is whether there are particular schedules of spaced retrieval (e.g., gradually expanding the interval between tests) that produce the best learning. In the present experiment, subjects studied and were tested on items until they could recall each one. They then practiced recalling the items on 3 repeated tests that were distributed according to one of several spacing schedules. Increasing the absolute (total) spacing of repeated tests produced large effects on long-term retention: Repeated retrieval with long intervals between each test produced a 200% improvement in long-term retention relative to repeated retrieval with no spacing between tests. However, there was no evidence that a particular relative spacing schedule (expanding, equal, or contracting) was inherently superior to another. Although expanding schedules afforded a pattern of increasing retrieval difficulty across repeated tests, this did not translate into gains in long-term retention. Repeated spaced retrieval had powerful effects on retention, but the relative schedule of repeated tests had no discernible impact.

PMID:
21574747
DOI:
10.1037/a0023436
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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