Performance gains from directed training do not transfer to untrained tasks

Hyun Kyu Lee, Walter R. Boot, Chandramallika Basak, Michelle W. Voss, Ruchika Shaurya Prakash, Mark Neider, Kirk I. Erickson, Daniel J. Simons, Monica Fabiani, Gabriele Gratton, Kathy A. Low, Arthur F. Kramer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Given the increasing complexity of the tasks and skills needed in modern society, developing effective training strategies is of tremendous practical importance. Furthermore, training that improves performance of both trained and untrained tasks would be highly efficient. In the present study, we examined how directed training contributes to skill acquisition, and more importantly, to engendering transfer of training to untrained tasks. Participants learned a complex video game for 30. h (Space Fortress, Donchin, Fabiani, & Sanders, 1989) using one of two training regimens: Hybrid Variable-Priority Training (HVT), with a focus on improving specific skills and managing task priority, or Full Emphasis Training (FET) in which participants simply practiced the game to obtain the highest overall score. We compared game performance, retention of training gains, and transfer of training to untrained tasks as a function of the training regimen. Compared to FET, HVT learners reached higher levels of mastery on the game and HVT was particularly beneficial for initially poor performing participants. This benefit persisted seven months after training. However, contrary to expectation, both HVT and FET were unsuccessful in producing transfer to untrained tasks compared to a group that received limited game experience, suggesting that directed training and practice can produce task-specific improvements, but improvements do not necessarily transfer from trained to untrained tasks.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)146-158
Number of pages13
JournalActa Psychologica
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2012


  • Directed training
  • Performance gains
  • Transfer of training

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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