Again for who ever doubted it: Prior knowledge predicts new learning of domain-relevant information.

I was not sure if it was needed to post this new study as it doesn’t add a lot of new insights to what we already know. Still, in times of replication crises, it’s always worth noting that an existing insight still stands: prior knowledge is key and more important: there is often a Matthew effect:

Abstract of the paper:

When learning new information, students’ prior knowledge related to that information will often vary. Prior research has not systematically explored how prior knowledge relates to learning of new, previously unknown information. Accordingly, the goal of the present research was to explore this relationship. In three experiments, students first completed a prior knowledge test over two domains (football and cooking) and then learned new information from these domains by answering questions and receiving feedback. Students also made a judgment of learning for each. To ensure that the learning was new (i.e., previously unknown) for all students, the to-be-learned information was false. Last, students completed a final test over the same questions from the learning phase. Prior knowledge in each domain was positively related to new learning for items from that domain but not from the other domain. Thus, the relationship between prior knowledge and new learning was domain specific, which we refer to as the rich-get-richer effect. Prior knowledge was also positively related to the magnitude of judgments of learning. In Experiment 3, to explore a potential reason why prior knowledge is related to new learning, students rated their curiosity in learning each item prior to receiving feedback. Critically, students’ curiosity judgments mediated the relationship between prior knowledge and new learning. These outcomes suggest that for high-knowledge learners, curiosity may be related to attention-based mechanisms that increase the effectiveness of encoding during feedback.

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