Effects of interleaved and blocked study on delayed test of category learning generalization

Carvalho, P. F. & Goldstone, R. L. (2014). Effects of interleaved and blocked study on delayed test of category learning generalization. Frontiers in Psychology, 5 (936), 1-11.

Studying different concepts by frequently alternating between them (i.e., interleaving), improves discriminative contrast between different categories, while studying each con- cept in separate blocks emphasizes the similarities within each category. Interleaved study has been shown to improve learning of high similarity categories by increasing between- category comparison, while blocked study improves learning of low similarity categories by increasing within-category comparison. In addition, interleaved study presents greater temporal spacing between repetitions of each category compared to blocked study, which might present long-term memory benefits. In this study we asked if the benefits of temporal spacing would interact with the benefits of sequencing for making comparisons when testing was delayed, particularly for low similarity categories. Blocked study might be predicted to promote noticing similarities across members of the same category and result in short-term benefits. However, the increase in temporal delay between repetitions inherent to interleaved study might benefit both types of categories when tested after a longer retention interval. Participants studied categories either interleaved or blocked and were tested immediately and 24 h after study. We found an interaction between schedule of study and the type of category studied, which is consistent with the differential emphasis promoted by each sequential schedule. However, increasing the retention interval did not modulate this interaction or resulted in improved performance for interleaved study. Overall, this indicates that the benefit of interleaving is not primarily due to temporal spacing during study, but rather due to the cross-category comparisons that interleaving facilitates. We discuss the benefits of temporal spacing of repetitions in the context of sequential study and how it can be integrated with the attentional bias hypothesis proposed by Carvalho and Goldstone (2014a).

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