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Title: Interleaved practice benefits implicit sequence learning and transfer
Abstract Compared to blocked practice, interleaved practice of different tasks leads to superior long-term retention despite poorer initial acquisition performance. This phenomenon, the contextual interference effect, is well documented in various domains but it is not yet clear if it persists in the absence of explicit knowledge in terms of fine motor sequence learning. Additionally, while there is some evidence that interleaved practice leads to improved transfer of learning to similar actions, transfer of implicit motor sequence learning has not been explored. The present studies used a serial reaction time task where participants practiced three different eight-item sequences that were either interleaved or blocked on Day 1 (training) and Day 2 (testing). In Experiment 1, the retention of the three training sequences was tested on Day 2 and in Experiment 2, three novel sequences were performed on Day 2 to measure transfer. We assessed whether subjects were aware of the sequences to determine whether the benefit of interleaved practice extends to implicitly learned sequences. Even for participants who reported no awareness of the sequences, interleaving led to a benefit for both retention and transfer compared to participants who practiced blocked sequences. Those who trained with blocked sequences were left unprepared for interleaved sequences at test, while those who trained with interleaved sequences were unaffected by testing condition, revealing that learning resulting from blocked practice may be less flexible and more vulnerable to testing conditions. These results indicate that the benefit of interleaved practice extends to implicit motor sequence learning and transfer.  more » « less
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Memory & Cognition
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National Science Foundation
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