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JOURNAL ARTICLE

People mind wander more during massed than spaced inductive learning

Janet Metcalfe, Judy Xu
Journal of Experimental Psychology. Learning, Memory, and Cognition 2016, 42 (6): 978-84
26618908
This article investigates the relation between mind wandering and the spacing effect in inductive learning. Participants studied works of art by different artists grouped in blocks, where works by a particular artist were either presented all together successively (the massed condition), or interleaved with the works of other artists (the spaced condition). The works of 24 artists were shown, with 12, 15, or 18 works by each artist being provided as exemplars. Later, different works by the same artists were presented for a test of the artists' identity. During the course of studying these works, participants were probed for mind wandering. It was found that people mind wandered more when the exemplars were presented in a massed rather than in a spaced manner, especially as the task progressed. There was little mind wandering and little difference between massed and spaced conditions toward the beginning of study. People were better able to correctly attribute the new works to the appropriate artist (inductive learning) when (a) they were in the spaced condition and (b) they had not been mind wandering. This research suggests that inductive learning may be influenced by mind wandering and that the impairment in learning with massed practice (compared to spaced practice) may be attributable, at least in part, to attentional factors-people are "on task" less fully when the stimuli are massed rather than spaced. (PsycINFO Database Record

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