The stability of old skills during transfer

Document Type

Journal Article


Sage Publications, Inc.

Place of Publication

United States


School of Arts and Humanities




Speelman, C. P., Forbes, J. D., Giesen, K., Parkinson, M., & Johnson, L. (2016). The Stability of Old Skills During Transfer. SAGE Open, 6(3), 2158244016658336. Available here.


This research was designed to evaluate the extent to which power functions can predict performance on a task when performance context has been altered. Since power functions reliably describe performance improvements during practice, an assumption implicit in some theories of skill acquisition and transfer is that transfer performance will continue to improve as an extrapolation of the practice power function. In the training phase of Experiment 1, 120 participants practiced solving simple problems from the six-times table. In the transfer phase, these same problems were presented again, intermixed with problems from one of the six conditions differing in various respects to the target problems. With the exception of two of these six conditions, performance on the target problems was slower than was predicted by training phase power function extrapolations. Where the nature of the task was altered, this disruption only occurred in the initial stages of transfer, with performance returning quickly to predicted levels. Where an increased scope of knowledge was required to perform the task, the disruption was more prolonged. Experiment 2 demonstrated that a spacing effect explanation of the results of Experiment 1 was not valid. Results were interpreted as reflecting the effect a change in the conceptual context of a task has on transfer performance. These findings have implications for theories of skill acquisition and transfer that assume transfer performance of established skills will continue to improve according to an extrapolation of the practice power function regardless of the conceptual context of the task. © 2016, © The Author(s) 2016.



Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.