When does feedback facilitate learning of words?

J Exp Psychol Learn Mem Cogn. 2005 Jan;31(1):3-8. doi: 10.1037/0278-7393.31.1.3.


Some researchers have suggested that although feedback may enhance performance during associative learning, it does so at the expense of later retention. To examine this issue, subjects (N = 258) learned Luganda-English word pairs. After 2 initial exposures to the materials, subjects were tested on each item several times, with the presence and type of feedback varying between subjects. A final test followed after 1 week. Supplying the correct answer after an incorrect response not only improved performance during the initial learning session--it also increased final retention by 494%. On the other hand, feedback after correct responses made little difference either immediately or at a delay, regardless of whether the subject was confident in the response. Practical and theoretical implications are discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Feedback*
  • Humans
  • Learning*
  • Reinforcement, Psychology*
  • Vocabulary*