Recovery from a transfer disruption

Document Type

Journal Article


Faculty of Computing, Health and Science


School of Psychology and Social Science / Cognition Research Group




This article was originally published as: Speelman, C. P., & Parkinson, M. (2012). Recovery from a transfer disruption. GSTF Journal of Law and Sciences, 1(2), 29-34. Original article available here


The present study examined the role of skill acquisition and skill transfer in relation to both Anderson’s (1993) Adaptive Control of Thought theory and Logan’s (1988) instance theory. The study involved 59 participants being presented with multiplication problems from the six times table, followed by a distractor task in the form of an addition or subtraction question. The training phase consisted of 12 blocks of trials, with six trials per block. The multiplication problems remained constant in both the training and transfer phases, while participants receiving addition problems in training then received subtraction questions in transfer and vice versa. Only reaction times for the multiplication problems were analysed and the results showed that there was a significant disruption in performance on these problems when the participants encountered the transfer phase. Further analysis on a trial by trial basis indicated that in the three trials following the contextual change, performance was significantly slower than the first trial of the transfer phase, discounting a fleeting ‘surprise’ effect. A power function fitted to the reaction times of the transfer trials following the context change supported the gradual return of performance to pre-transfer levels. The results contradicted both Anderson’s and Logan’s predictions, and suggest that with practise, a mental set is developed which can then be disrupted through contextual change