Stafford and Michael Dewar from the New York Times Research and Development Lab analyzed data from 854,064 people playing an online game called Axon. Players are tasked with guiding a neuron from connection to connection by clicking on potential targets, testing participants’ ability to perceive, make decisions, and move quickly.
Stafford and Dewar were interested to know how practice affected players’ subsequent performance in the game. Some Axon players achieved higher scores than others despite practicing for the same amount of time.
Game play data revealed that those players who seemed to learn more quickly had either spaced out their practice or had more variable early performance, suggesting they were exploring how the game works, before going on to perform better.
Stafford said that the study suggests that you can learn more efficiently or use the same practice time to learn to a higher level. The study is published in the journal Psychological Science.