People differ in how quickly they learn information and how long they remember it, yet individual differences in learning abilities within healthy adults have been relatively neglected. In two studies, we examined the relation between learning rate and subsequent retention using a new foreign-language paired-associates task (the learningefficiency task), which was designed to eliminate ceiling effects that often accompany standardized tests of learning and memory in healthy adults. A key finding was that quicker learners were also more durable learners (i.e., exhibited better retention across a delay), despite studying the material for less time. Additionally, measures of learning and memory from this task were reliable in Study 1 (N = 281) across 30 hr and Study 2 (N = 92; follow-up n = 46) across 3 years. We conclude that people vary in how efficiently they learn, and we describe a reliable and valid method for assessing learning efficiency within healthy adults.
Supplementary material can be found here.