The benefits of interleaved and blocked study: Different tasks benefit from different schedules of study
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Research on how information should be studied during inductive category learning has identified both interleaving of categories and blocking by category as beneficial for learning. Previous work suggests that this mixed evidence can be reconciled by taking into account within- and between-category similarity relations. In this article, we present a new moderating factor. Across two experiments, one group of participants studied categories actively (by studying the objects without correct category assignment and actively figuring out what the category was), either interleaved or blocked. Another group studied the same categories passively (objects and correct category assignment were simultaneously provided). Results from a subsequent generalization task show that whether interleaved or blocked study results in better learning depends on whether study is active or passive. One account of these results is that different presentation sequences and tasks promote different patterns of attention to stimulus components. Passive learning and blocking promote attending to commonalities within categories, while active learning and interleaving promote attending to differences between categories.
KeywordsInterleaving Blocking Category learning Comparison Inductive learning
This research was supported in part by National Science Foundation REESE grant 0910218 and Department of Education IES grant R305A1100060. P.F.C. was also supported by Graduate Training Fellowship SFRH/BD/78083/2011 from the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT), co-sponsored by the European Social Found. The authors would like to thank the Percepts and Concepts Lab members for discussion and Spenser Benge, Abigail Kost, Alifya Saify, and Shivani Vasudeva for their assistance with data collection. The authors are also thankful to Bob McMurray and two anonymous reviewers for their feedback on earlier versions of the manuscript. “Freeble” stimuli images are courtesy of Michael J. Tarr, Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition and Department of Psychology, Carnegie Mellon University, http://www.tarrlab.org/. “Ziggerin” stimuli images are courtesy of Alan Wong, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, http://ww2.psy.cuhk.edu.hk/~mael/Stimuli.html.
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