The benefits of interleaved and blocked study: Different tasks benefit from different schedules of study

Carvalho, P. F. & Goldstone, R. L. (2015). The benefits of interleaved and blocked study: Different tasks benefit from different schedules of study. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 22(1), 241-248.

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 paper 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 is), 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 result in better learning depend 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.

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