When does passive learning improve the effectiveness of active learning?


Much of what we learn comes from a mix of information that we select (active) and information that we receive (passive). But which type of training is better for different kinds of learning problems? Here, we explore this question by comparing different sequences of active/passive training in an abstract concept learning task. First, we replicate the active learning advantage from Markant & Gureckis (2014) (Experiments 1a and 1b). Then, we provide a test of whether experiencing active learning first or passive learning first improves the effectiveness of concept learning (Experiment 2). Across both experiments, active training led to better learning of the target concept, but "passive-first" learners were more accurate than "active-first" learners and more efficient than "active-only" learners. These findings broaden our understanding of when different sequences of active/passive learning are more effective, suggesting that for certain problems active exploration can be enhanced with prior passive experience.

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