Failure of further learning: activities, structure and meaning

Catherine O Fritz, Peter E Morris, Barbara Reid, Roya Aghdassi, Claire E Naven

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticlepeer-review


Previous research has shown that little benefit is achieved through spaced study and recall of text passages after the first recall attempt, an effect that we term the failure-of-further-learning. We hypothesized that the effect occurs because a situation model of the text’s gist is formed when the text is first comprehended and is consolidated when recalled; it dominates later recall after verbatim memories of more recent study episodes have been lost. Experiments 1 and 2 attempted to circumvent the effect by varying the activities of participants and requiring interactive exploration. In both experiments, recall after four, weekly sessions showed little benefit beyond performance on the first recall. Experiment 3 interfered with the formation of an immediate situation model by introducing passages that were hard to comprehend without a title. Performance improved substantially across four sessions when titles were not supplied, but the standard effect was replicated when titles were given. Experiment 4 made verbatim memories available by incorporating all re-presentations and tests into one session; as predicted, recall improved over successive tests.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)22 - 45
Number of pages23
JournalBritish Journal of Psychology
Issue number1
Early online date18 Dec 2013
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2015


  • Learning from text
  • fuzzy trace theory
  • memory
  • spacing
  • test practice


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