It has long been known that distributed learning (DL) provides a mnemonic advantage over massed learning (ML). However, the underlying mechanisms that drive this robust mnemonic effect remain largely unknown. In two experiments, we show that DL across a 24 hr interval does not enhance immediate memory performance but instead slows the rate of forgetting relative to ML. Furthermore, we demonstrate that this savings in forgetting is specific to relational, but not item, memory. In the context of extant theories and knowledge of memory consolidation, these results suggest that an important mechanism underlying the mnemonic benefit of DL is enhanced memory consolidation. We speculate that synaptic strengthening mechanisms supporting long-term memory consolidation may be differentially mediated by the spacing of memory reactivation. These findings have broad implications for the scientific study of episodic memory consolidation and, more generally, for educational curriculum development and policy.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
- Cognitive Neuroscience
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience