The crutch of context-dependency: Effects of contextual support and constancy on acquisition and retention Academic Article uri icon


  • Paired associates (Tagalog-English word pairs) were studied and practiced with pairs superimposed over pictorial contexts, and tested with no context cues. On every retrieval practice (RP) incidental or conceptually supportive contexts were repeatedly shown with the same pair (constant context condition), or else new contexts were shown on every RP trial (varied context condition). Incidental contexts in the constant condition and supportive contexts in both constant and varied context conditions facilitated practice scores, but left learning susceptible to forgetting when context cues were not provided. In contrast, varying incidental contexts during practice resulted in slower acquisition, but greater retention in the absence of context cues. The results show that varying incidental contexts during practice can be a desirable difficulty.

author list (cited authors)

  • Smith, S. M., & Handy, J. D.

citation count

  • 9

publication date

  • August 2015

published in