Day, S. B., Manlove, S., & Goldstone, R. L. (2011). Transfer, and the effects of context outside of the training task. Proceedings of the Thirty-Third Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society. (pp. 2637-2642). Boston, Massachusetts: Cognitive Science Society.
While the use of concrete, contextualized and personally relevant examples can benefit learners in terms of comprehension and motivation, these types of examples can come with a cost. Examples may become too bound to their particular context, and individuals may have a difficult time recognizing when the underlying principles are relevant in new situations. In the current study, we provide evidence that contextualization may impair knowledge transfer even when that context occurs outside of the training example itself. Specifically, when students were taught about positive feedback systems in the context of polar ice-albedo effects, those individuals that had previously learned about the effects of global warming on polar bear populations showed reliably poorer transfer performance.