The Effect of the Difficulty of One Task on the Simultaneous Learning of Another Task.
NORTHWESTERN UNIV EVANSTON ILL DEPT OF PSYCHOLOGY
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In simultaneous learning two verbal lists are interlaced for study, with each tested separately. In the present experiments simultaneous learning was used as a means of determining the conditions under which study time or learning resources might be reallocated between lists. One of the lists was called the standard list and it remained constant across the conditions of each experiment. The other list, the variable list, was manipulated to produce differences in its difficulty. If performance on the standard task varied as a function of the difficulty of the variable list, we inferred a shift in study time. In a more general sense, the purpose of the experiments was to determine the strategies that a subject might use to maximize the learning when the instructions are to learn as many items from both lists as possible. In addition, one of the studies suggested the possibility that when the processes underlying the two tasks are uncorrelated, performance on both tasks is enhanced. Another study indicated support for the theory which asserts that the spacing effect is due to an attenuation-of-attention for massed items. Our general conclusion is that subjects reallocate study time between two tasks being learned simultaneously only when there are obvious differences in difficulty.