Repeated exposure (like rereading) is an inefficient learning strategy

Book - Make it stick.. the science of successful learningBook - Make it stick.. the science of successful learning


author: Peter C. Brown
title: Make it stick: the science of successful learning

argues that repeated exposure to material does little to reinforce knowledge. The "penny memory test" is a common example of this, with dozen images of a penny presented, only one of which is correct. Even though we see pennies on a daily basis, people struggle with identifying the correct one.

Experiments showed that prior exposure does not lead to better recall (lists of items needed to be remembered, group A was given to-remember list twice, group B was given a different list and then to-remember list, both had similar recall)

Citation: E. Tulving, Subjective organization and the effects of repetition in multi-trial free recall learning, Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior 5 (1966), 193–197.

This notion is mirrored in a meta analysis of learning strategies in dunloskyImprovingStudentsLearning2013dunloskyImprovingStudentsLearning2013


author: John Dunlosky, Katherine A. Rawson, Elizabeth J. Marsh, Mitchell J. Nathan, Daniel T. Willingham
title: Improving Students’ Learning With Effective Learning Te...
, many papers of which are cited in the book (Some of the research found no benefit whatsoever for rereading).

Based on the available evidence, we rate rereading as having low utility.

Even worse, repeated exposure increases our familiarity with a topic, leading to The illusion of knowing hinders us when studyingThe illusion of knowing hinders us when studying
The authors of [[Book - Make it stick.. the science of successful learning]] highlight a common problem: Students tend to confuse familiarity with mastery of a topic.

This ''illusion of knowing" i...