Memory & Cognition

, Volume 41, Issue 1, pp 16-27

First online:

The exemplar interleaving effect in inductive learning: Moderation by the difficulty of category discriminations

  • Norehan ZulkiplyAffiliated withSchool of Psychology, University of QueenslandFaculty of Cognitive Sciences and Human Development, Universiti Malaysia Sarawak Email author 
  • , Jennifer S. BurtAffiliated withSchool of Psychology, University of Queensland


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.


Spacing effect Inductive learning Category learning Category induction Category discrimination