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Jelle Dalenberg - Optimizing topographical learning by increasing retrieval effort

24 May 2011


Fact learning is important in a variety of learning contexts. Research showed that repeated testing and spacing learning sessions over time improves later retention of facts. These phenomena were previously incorporated in a cognitive model that improved learning word pairs. The current study extends this work in two ways. First, we investigated how repeated spaced testing improves fact learning. We hypothesized that spacing and testing effects may be caused by increased retrieval effort which is modulated by the relative strength of memory traces. To test this, an experiment was set up that measured pupil dilation -an indicator of mental effort- during retrieval tasks. Second, we investigated whether the spacing model improved learning facts that are not only stored lexically (word pairs) but also visuo-spatial (topography). A second experiment tested this by comparing the model with a flashcard method. The results of the experiments indicated that differences in relative memory strength indeed have significant effects on effort. Furthermore we failed to find learning improvements due to demonstrated problems in the paradigm. This work shows that the spacing model improves learning gains by increasing retrieval effort and that it still has potential to improve learning facts that are associated with different memory systems.

Last modified:31 May 2018 4.05 p.m.

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