The spacing effect depends on an encoding deficit, retrieval, and time in working memory: evidence from once-presented words.
The spacing effect in list learning occurs because identical massed items suffer encoding deficits and because spaced items benefit from retrieval and increased time in working memory. Requiring the retrieval of identical items produced a spacing effect for recall and recognition, both for intentional and incidental learning. Not requiring retrieval produced spacing only for intentional learning because intentional learning encourages retrieval. Once-presented words provided baselines for these effects. Next, massed and spaced word pairs were judged for matches on their first three letters, forcing retrieval. The words were not identical, so there was no encoding deficit. Retrieval could and did cause spacing only for the first word of each pair; time in working memory, only for the second.
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