There are many things that we have to learn in our lives for relationships, education, and finding a job, …Facing a new situation, we try to draw from everything we have experienced before and extend and generalize them to new ones. This is called induction. For example, a small child gradually learns what a chair is, by observing others talking about or pointing at it. And then, wherever the child sees any surface that one can sit on, that would be considered as a chair.
Kornell and Bjork examined how inductive learning could become more efficient and help us make a more accurate diagnosis. This is particularly important if there are little differences between examples that we learn from and it is hard to distinguish between components. In such cases, we may make a mistake when trying to extend what we have learned from previous examples to new situations. In this article, landscape paintings from 12 artists were used. The experimenters wanted to see in which case people could better relate a new painting to a studied painter and their styles.
To find out how to improve induction, they compared two conditions. In one case, they showed people the paintings of each artist altogether, in the same block of practice. In this condition, after practicing a block of paintings by, for example, Picasso, people moved to the next block where they practiced with paintings from George Braque. In the other condition, they combined the paintings from all different artists with one another and people practiced them all together. In any given block, the participant may see one painting from Picasso followed by another from Braque followed by the next one from Jean Metzinger (These are examples. The painters were not famous).
After such a blocked or mixed training, in the next step, a new painting was presented to the participants and they were asked to identify the artist of the painting. In addition, participants were asked to mention which method they thought was better for learning the artists’ styles. To see every artist’s paintings in separate blocks(massed), to see different paintings of different painters all together(spaced) or they considered both methods the same.
The results showed that 78% of people could better identify the painter with the mixed method. Interestingly, however, when people were asked to say which training method was more useful, 78% of them found the blocked method better or as same as the mixed practice.
The mixed method helps us to better understand the differences between works of different painters and to better distinguish the style of each artist from others in the next encounter.
But why do people think the other blocked method is better for learning? Maybe we experience more difficulty while learning with the mixed method and that feeling of difficulty masks our better learning from us. An easier way of learning is often perceived as more effective. Fluency increases confidence. This leads to an illusion that separating categories may be more effective and better for learning.
Let’s go back to our example. If we are going to teach a small child what a chair is, we could show her/him a chair. But if the child understands the chair as a surface where we can sit, and you have also shown him/her many different chairs, he/she may still see a small table and think that it is an example of a chair. In fact, a child learns to distinguish a chair from other objects when he or she learns about the differences between them.
In general, it is better to use mixed-method of practicing in situations in which skills for diagnosis and prediction are needed. For example, the football coach and the goalkeeper can combine all forms of goal-scoring opportunities in training sessions instead of recreating different situations into separate categories. In this case, the goalkeeper can use more of his/her abilities in the next match.
You can also watch these videos on YouTube to see the differences between these methods used for pre-match training: