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The spacing effect in immediate and delayed free recall

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Spacing repetitions improves learning relative to massing repetitions (the spacing effect). While most studies have examined the spacing effect at short retention intervals, there are contradictory claims about its fate at a delay. Certain empirical findings suggest that the spacing effect persists at a delay. However, a recent theoretical account proposes that in free recall the spacing effect should disappear at a delay. The few studies that have examined the spacing effect at a delay are sub-optimally designed, preventing an unbiased conclusion. The current study used incidental learning and controlled recency and encoding strategy in order to examine the effect of delay on the recall of spaced items within a free recall paradigm. The results demonstrated that the spacing effect persists after a delay. The results point to an important dissociation between intentional forgetting and context-change designs (which produce more forgetting of spaced than massed items) and the passage of time (which produces similar forgetting of spaced and massed items).
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Keywords: Forgetting; Free recall; Reminding; Spacing effect

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Psychology, The University of North Carolina at Greensboro, NC, USA 2: Department of Psychology, Erasmus University Rotterdam, The Netherlands

Publication date: July 4, 2014

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