Academic journal article Memory & Cognition

The Exemplar Interleaving Effect in Inductive Learning: Moderation by the Difficulty of Category Discriminations

Academic journal article Memory & Cognition

The Exemplar Interleaving Effect in Inductive Learning: Moderation by the Difficulty of Category Discriminations

Article excerpt

Published online: 11 August 2012

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2012

Abstract Recent research demonstrates a spacing effect in inductive learning. Spacing different individual exemplars apart in time, rather than massing them together, aids in the learning of categories. Experiment 1 examined whether it is interleaving or temporal spacing that is critical to the spacing effect in the situation wherethe memory load is high, and the results favored interleaving. Experiment 2 examined the effect of the difficulty of the category discrimination on presentation style (massed vs. spaced) in inductive learning, and the results demonstrated that spacing (i.e., interleaving of exemplars from different categories) is advantageous for low-discriminabilty categories, whereas massing is more effective for high-discriminability categories. In contrast to these performance measures, massing was judged by participants to be more effective than spacing in both discriminability conditions, even when performance for low-discriminability categories showed the opposite.

Keywords Spacing effect . Inductive learning . Category learning . Category induction . Category discrimination

Childers & Tomasello, 2002; Donovan & Radosevich, 1999; Ebbinghaus, 1964; Melton, 1970; Rea & Modigliani, 1987; Toppino, 1993). This finding, known as the spacing effect, is well documented in the memory literature (e.g., Cepeda et al., 2006; Dempster, 1996; Donovan & Radosevich, 1999). The effect is robust and has been demonstrated using a wide range of materials, including nonsense syllables (e.g., Ebbinghaus, 1985/1913), words (e.g., Glenberg & Lehmann, 1980), sentences (e.g., Rothkopf & Coke, 1966), pictures (e.g., Hintzman & Rogers, 1973), and faces (e.g., Cornell, 1980). The effect also applies to various contexts, from learning simple lists (e.g., Glenberg, 1979) to learning complex judgment tasks (e.g., Helsdingen, Van Gog, & Van Merriënboer, 2011).

Recent research also demonstrates a spacing effect in inductive learning-in particular, category learning. A typical study examining a spacing effect in inductive learning compares a massed condition in which exemplars from each category are presented contiguously with a spaced condition in which exemplars from each category are presented apart in time (e.g., Kornell & Bjork, 2008; Kornell, Castel, Eich, & Bjork, 2010). Several earlier studies showed that massing facilitates induction (e.g., Gagne, 1950; Kurtz & Hovland, 1956), with other studies providing less direct evidence that massing facilitates induction (e.g., Appleton-Knapp, Bjork, & Wickens, 2005; Dellarosa & Bourne, 1985; Glover & Corkill, 1987;Melton, 1970;Wulf&Shea, 2002). Nonetheless, as was noted, there is growing evidence from recent research suggesting that spacing results in better learning of categories and concepts (i.e., Kang & Pashler, 2012; Kornell & Bjork, 2008; Kornell et al., 2010; Vlach, Sandhofer, & Kornell, 2008; Wahlheim, Dunlosky, & Jacoby, 2011). Various types of learning materials have been used in recent studies, such as paintings from several artists (e.g., Kang & Pashler, 2012; Kornell & Bjork, 2008; Kornell et al., 2010), different categories of novel objects that were constructed from arts and craftsupplies and objects from hardware stores (e.g.,Vlach et al., 2008), and different categories of bird families (e.g., Wahlheimet al., 2011). In our recent work (Zulkiply,McLean, Burt, & Bath, 2012), we also found a result similar to that obtained by previous studies-that is, spaced presentation facilitated the learning of categories in inductive learning- and the finding was extended to textual material. Thus, recent studies seem to demonstrate generalization of the spacing effect in the context of inductive learning.

Despite the fact that there is growing evidence that induction profits from spacing in category learning, there are still some questions about the mechanisms of the effect as it applies to induction. …

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