October 20, 2020In Uncategorized4 Minutes

This is called “Context Dependent Memory”. There are numerous studies in the second half of the 1900s that attempted to demonstrate how the characteristics of the context in which learning takes place influence the ability to memorize and recall that specific learning.


Among the many experiments that are developed in order to demonstrate this important characteristic of human memory, the one by Godden and Baddeley in 1975, published in the British Journal of Psychology, is very interesting.

The two authors use a simple task (studying and remembering a list of words) experimenting with the effect of context thanks to the use of two very different environments. The subjects of the study, members of a university diving club, are divided into two groups: one of them practices the study of this list of words on land, while the other group does it underwater. At the end of the learning period (the two groups study the same number of words for the same period of time) the test takes place.

To investigate the effect of context on memory, the groups are divided into two subgroups. The group that studied on land is divided into two, one part will be questioned on land while the other part underwater. The same procedure is carried out for the group that studied underwater, half are questioned in the same study environment while the other half on land.

How many words will they remember?

As can be seen from the graph below, the influence of the context is not only present but is absolutely significant and affects the subjects’ memory. Those who have studied on land and are questioned underwater, as well as those who have studied underwater and are questioned on land, remember many fewer words than the other half of the group, who are questioned in the same learning environment.



Some authors (Williams H. Edwards et al) define it as ENCODING SPECIFICITY PRINCIPLE. The characteristics of the context in which we learn something influence the degree of our learning. How? When we learn something we not only memorize the explicit, i.e. the content of the learning that we consciously internalize, but also the implicit, i.e. the characteristics of the context (light, temperature, interpersonal spaces, speed of movement, etc.) that we learn unconsciously. They are like “the canvas on which an artist paints”, we may not realize it but they form the substrate on which we store all the explicit memories that we intend to learn.

The more similar the characteristics of the training context are to those of the competition, the greater the effect of practice will be, and consequently the degree of learning. The transferability of learning depends on the fidelity of the characteristics of the context in which this learning is developed.


If in individual sports, especially the so-called “closed skills” (see athletics), respecting this principle can all in all be simple and natural, things can change quite a bit when we instead consider training within sports of situation.

Let’s take the example of a goalkeeper, in football but also in hockey, or handball, who in order to be trained more on saving is subjected to a continuous series of shots by his coach. How many of these shots can we consider “real”? How much will the diversity of the context (think of spaces, opponents, companions, psychological and temporal pressures) influence the transferability of this learning and consequently the effectiveness of this practice?

October 20, 2020In Uncategorized4 Minutes