Transfer of category learning to impoverished contexts.
Learning often happens in ideal conditions, but then must be applied in less-than-ideal conditions - such as when a learner studies clearly illustrated examples of rocks in a book but then must identify them in a muddy field. Here we examine whether the benefits of interleaving (vs. blocking) study schedules, as well as the use of feature descriptions, supports the transfer of category learning in new, impoverished contexts. Specifically, keeping the study conditions constant, we evaluated learners' ability to classify new exemplars in the same neutral context versus in impoverished contexts in which certain stimulus features are occluded. Over two experiments, we demonstrate that performance in new, impoverished contexts during test is greater for participants who received an interleaved (vs. blocked) study schedule, both for novel and for studied exemplars. Additionally, we show that this benefit extends to both a short (3-min) or long (48-h) test delay. The presence of feature descriptions during learning had no impact on transfer. Together, these results extend the growing literature investigating how changes in context during category learning or test impacts performance and provide support for the use of interleaving to promote the far transfer of category knowledge to impoverished contexts.
Whitehead, PS; Zamary, A; Marsh, EJ
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