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IES Grant

Title: Optimizing Resistance to Forgetting
Center: NCER Year: 2002
Principal Investigator: Pashler, Harold E. Awardee: University of California, San Diego
Program: Cognition and Student Learning      [Program Details]
Award Period: 2 years Award Amount: $500,000
Type: Exploration Award Number: R305H020061

Purpose: In this study, researchers explored ways to extend basic research on memory beyond the laboratory setting. Their goal was to identify highly effective strategies that could optimize the use of study time and improve students' ability to retain information.

Project Activities: The research team completed a series of experiments examining the spacing effect in situations with longer retention intervals that more closely approximate school-based situations.  They also completed a series of experiments examining the effects of overlearning and feedback.

Key Outcomes: The key outcomes from this project include:

  • Publishing substantive review of the past 100 years of work on spacing effects in the laboratory (Cepeda et al., 2006).
  • The team found that performance on the final test is improved substantially when students study the material over a spacing interval approximately 10–20% of how long they need to remember the material for. So, students trying to learn material during a semester should study the same material twice separated by a period of at least a few weeks (Cepeda et al., 2005).
  • The team found that overlearning does have a positive effect, but the impact on retention diminishes over time.  (Rohrer et al., 2005; Rohrer and Taylor, 2006).
  • The team affirmed that feedback is necessary for students to learn the information. (Pashler et al., 2005).

Related IES Projects: Optimizing Resistance to Forgetting (R305H040108),Harnessing Retrieval Practice to Enhance Learning in Diverse Domains (R305B070537), Interleaved Mathematics Practice (R305A110517), An Efficacy Study of Interleaved Mathematics Practice (R305A160263)


ERIC Citations: Find available citations in ERIC for this award here.

Select Publications:

Cepeda, N., Coburn, N., Rohrer, D., Wixted, J., Mozer, M., and Pashler, H. (2009). Optimizing Distributed Practice: Theoretical Analysis and Practical Implications. Experimental Psychology, 56 (4): 236–246.

Cepeda, N., Vul, E., Rohrer, D., Wixted, J., and Pashler, H. (2008). Spacing Effects in Learning: A Temporal Ridgeline of Optimal Retention. Psychological Science, 19 : 1095–1102.

Cepeda, N.J., Pashler, H., Vul, E., Wixted, J.T., and Rohrer, D. (2006). Distributed Practice in Verbal Recall Tasks: A Review and Quantitative Synthesis. Psychological Bulletin, 132 (2): 354–380.

Kang, S.H.K., Pashler, H., Cepeda, N.J., Rohrer, D., Carpenter, S.K., and Mozer, M.C. (2011). Does Incorrect Guessing Impair Fact Learning?. Journal of Educational Psychology, 103 (1): 48–59.

Kang, S.K., McDaniel, M.A., and Pashler, H. (2011). Effects of Testing on Learning of Functions. Psychonomic Bulletin and Review, 18 (5): 998–1005.

Mozer, M.C., Pashler, H., and Homaei, H. (2008). Optimal Predictions in Everyday Cognition: The Wisdom of Individuals or Crowds?. Cognitive Science, 32 (7): 1133–1147.

Pashler, H., Cepeda, N.J., Wixted, J.T., and Rohrer, D. (2005). When Does Feedback Facilitate Learning of Words?. Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 31 (1): 3–8.

Pashler, H., Zarow, G., and Triplett, B. (2003). Is Temporal Spacing of Tests Helpful Even When it Inflates Error Rates?. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 29 (6): 1051–1057.

Rohrer, D. (2009). The Effects of Spacing and Mixing Practice Problems. Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, 40 (1): 4–17.

Rohrer, D., and Taylor, K. (2006). The Effects of Overlearning and Distributed Practice on the Retention of Mathematics Knowledge. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 20 (9): 1209–1224.

Rohrer, D., Taylor, K., Pashler, H., Wixted, J.T., and Cepeda, N.J. (2005). The Effect of Overlearning on Long-Term Retention. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 19 (3): 361–374.

Vul, E., and Pashler, H. (2007). Incubation Benefits Only After People Have Been Misdirected. Memory and Cognition, 35 (4): 701–710.

Vul, E., and Pashler, H. (2008). Measuring the Crowd Within: Probabilistic Representations Within Individuals. Psychological Science, 19 (7): 645–647.

Vul, E., Harris, C., Winkielman, P., and Pashler, H. (2009). Puzzlingly High Correlations in fMRI Studies of Emotion, Personality, and Social Cognition. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 4 (3): 274–290.