Techniques for scaffolding retrieval practice: The costs and benefits of adaptive versus diminishing cues

Joshua L. Fiechter, Aaron S. Benjamin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Testing is a powerful enhancer of memory. However, if initial encoding is poor, and subsequent retrieval practice is likely to fail, then the benefits of testing are diminished or even eliminated. Previous work has suggested that the benefits of testing may be preserved under difficult conditions with a scaffolded technique called diminishing-cues retrieval practice (DCRP; Fiechter & Benjamin, Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 25(5), 1868–1876, 2018). DCRP provides increasing retrieval demands over practice, but does not adapt to individual learners or to materials of varying difficulty. Here, we evaluate a new technique called adaptive-cues retrieval practice (ACRP). ACRP adapts to an individual’s moment-to-moment ability by providing within-trial accumulated cuing, generating more demanding retrieval practice for better learned items. Across six experiments, learners practiced English–Iñupiaq word pairs using ACRP, standard retrieval practice, restudy, and DCRP. ACRP is even more effective than DCRP in situations where standard retrieval practice is ineffective. When testing is most effective, ACRP, DCRP, and standard retrieval practice all enhance memory to approximately the same degree, but DCRP requires the least practice time. Our findings suggest that DCRP is a more efficient technique for learning, but that the benefits of ACRP extend to more learning scenarios than those of any other identified practice regimen.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1666-1674
Number of pages9
JournalPsychonomic Bulletin and Review
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 1 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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