Recent Experiments in Psychology

By Leland W. Crafts; Theodore C. Schneirla et al. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XVIII
THE IMPORTANCE OF ORGANIZATION FOR RETENTION AND TRANSFER

INTRODUCTION

One of the most important topics in the investigation of learning is the relation between the organization of the material or activity to be learned and the speed with which the activity is mastered, the degree to which it is retained, and the likelihood that transfer1Based on Katona, George. Organizing and Memorizing. Copyright, 1940, by Columbia University Press, New York. to other situations will occur. Especially significant is the kind of organization which makes possible the development of a general principle, and the effect of such a principle--when acquired and understood by the learner--upon his retention of what he has learned and his ability to transfer it (or apply it) to a subsequent different situation.

Organization in its simplest form may be characterized as merely a sort of grouping. Thus, a subject who is trying to memorize the 12 digits 581215192226 may group them, say, by three's, and may therefore perceive and repeat the series as 581 215 192 226. If he says the series to himself he probably will employ rhythm also, perhaps accentuating the first of each group of three digits, either subvocally or aloud.

It has been demonstrated repeatedly that even organization of this kind, which Katona3 terms "rudimentary . . . arbitrary and artificial," is superior to no organization at all, in that it leads to quicker learning of a series and to better and longer retention of it as well. Presumably the reason for its value is that it involves the establishment of relationships between the items of the material (here the different digits), and yields a kind of form, pattern, or "Gestalt" which confers some measure of unity upon the material. A series of 12 digits may become

____________________
1
Based on Katona George. Organizing and Memorizing. Copyright, 1940, by Columbia University Press, New York.
3
Katona, op. cit., p. 18; see also his discussion on pp. 165-192 and 283-287.

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