Retrieval practice transfer effects for multielement event triplets

R Soc Open Sci. 2021 Nov 10;8(11):201456. doi: 10.1098/rsos.201456. eCollection 2021 Nov.


Retrieval practice (RP) leads to improved retention relative to re-exposure and is considered a robust phenomenon when the final test conditions are identical to RP conditions. However, the extent to which RP 'transfers' to related material is less clear. Here, we tested for RP transfer effects under conditions known to induce integration of associated material at encoding, which may make transfer more likely. Participants learned multielement triplets (locations, animals and objects) and one pairwise association from each triplet was tested through RP, re-exposed, or not re-exposed (control). Two days later participants completed a final test of all pairwise associations. We found no evidence for an RP effect compared to re-exposure, but both tested/re-exposed pairs were better remembered than the not re-exposed control condition. We also found that transfer occurred from both tested to untested and re-exposed to not re-exposed pairs. Our results highlight that RP and re-exposure can boost retention for directly tested/re-exposed event pairs and associated but untested/not re-exposed event pairs, suggesting re-exposure of integrated information can be of pedagogical value. The results also question the boundary conditions for an increase in retention for RP relative to re-exposure, highlighting the need for a better theoretical understanding of RP effects.

Keywords: education; episodic memory; retrieval practice; testing effect; transfer effect.