Retrieval Practice Benefits Deductive Inference
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Retrieval practice has been shown to benefit learning. However, the benefit has sometimes been attenuated with more complex materials that require integrating multiple units of information. Critically, Tran et al. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 22, 135–140 (2015) found that retrieval practice improves sentence memory but not the drawing of inferences from the same sentences. In three experiments, we investigated whether this lack of benefit of retrieval practice for inferential ability was due to the presentation format of the material. Participants studied four sets of seven to nine related sentences by practicing retrieval for two sets and rereading the other two sets. A final test was given 2 days later. When sentences were presented one at a time during study/practice as in Tran et al., we found no effect of retrieval practice on a test requiring inferential reasoning. When sentences in a set were presented simultaneously during study/practice, retrieval practice in the form of fill-in-the-blank testing (experiments 1 and 2) and free recall (experiment 3) aided later deductive inference more than rereading. Our findings suggest that retrieval practice can improve deductive inference, but in order to optimize its utility, the format in which the material is presented during practice must not hinder relational processing of the individual sentences.
KeywordsTesting effect Retrieval practice Inferential reasoning Deduction
This research was supported by a Walter and Constance Burke Research Initiation Award. The authors acknowledge Spencer Chu for assistance with programming the experiments and Randy Tran for providing helpful information regarding the experimental materials. The authors also thank Wafaa Ahmed, Alexandra Gerber, Brendan Schuetze, and Xinyun Tang for assistance with data collection.
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