Remindings and their effects in learning a cognitive skill

Brian H. Ross

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The early practice of cognitive skills includes many instances of remindings, the memory retrieval of earlier learning episodes. This paper provides experimental demonstration of remindings during the early phase of learning and examines their effect on performance. The effects of practice and difficulty are also examined. In Experiment 1, subjects learned to use a computer text editor. For each operation, two methods were taught, each with a different irrelevant context (e.g., type of textual material). At test, one of these contexts was reinstated. Overall, there was a tendency to use the method learned with similar material, but much of this "consistency" effect was due to tests in which the subjects mentioned (i.e., were reminded of) a learning exercise. In Experiments 2 and 3, subjects learned probability theory by studying abstract information and an example. The test example content might be the same as the study example content for that principle (appropriate), a content not shown before (unrelated), or a content studied with one of the other principles (inappropriate). In Experiment 2, the appropriate condition led to highest performance and the inappropriate condition led to lowest performance, as predicted. In Experiment 3, the same three conditions were used, but three of the principles used the same study example content, an interference manipulation. The facilitation effect found when the study and test examples had the same content was attenuated when the content was shared, as predicted. The implications of these results for theories of cognitive skill learning are discussed and a brief sketch of a theory is provided.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)371-416
Number of pages46
JournalCognitive Psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 1984
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Artificial Intelligence


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