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Concept of verbal learning      

      Verbal learning is defined as an area of experimental psychology that deals with the study of the formation of particular verbal associations. Therefore, it deals with the acquisition of associations. An individual acquires and retains verbal responses to a given stimulus. According to Eysenck, learning of responses shows that associations between the stimuli and responses have been strengthened. Verbal learning is comprised of serial learning, paired-associate learning, and free recall learning, whose similarities and differences will be considered in the discussion.    

Serial Learning  

      Serial learning is defined as the verbal learning association that involves the acquisition of knowledge in which items are arranged alphabetically. This type of learning is studied in laboratories by presenting an individual with serial lists of which each list consists of a number of items that are not related. An individual is required to recall patterns of stimuli or facts in the same order they are presented. In serial learning, learning is influenced by the arrangement of items on a list. When the items are arranged in a formal sequence, an individual can learn each and every item because they follow each other consistently and in a systematic way. However, most people find it hard to remember items according to the order in which they appear on a list.  

Paired-associate Learning

      Paired-associate learning is defined as a type of verbal learning in which pairs of items, especially words, are presented to an individual until one of the items can lead to the recall of the other item. This type of learning represents associative memory because an individual associates an item to another when they are presented in a pair for a period of time. Paired-associate learning has been found useful in the study of foreign languages in which words, digits, or syllables are learned in pairs so that either member of the pair can enable an individual to remember the other member.  Therefore, in paired-associate learning, learning is based on the presentation of a pair of items. This type of verbal learning is considered the easiest because an individual is required to associate an item to another after they have been presented in a pair for a period of time.  

Free recall

      Free recall learning is defined as the type learning in which an individual organizes information according to his or her memory. For instance, the words that are positioned at the end and the beginning of a list will be remembered easily, a phenomenon referred to as the serial position effect . According to Eysenck, unusual stimuli will be recalled more easily as compared to the usual stimuli. Free recall depends on a number of factors such as length of the list, the type of material presented, and the task applied in processing the words, for instance, the use of a simple judgment. Items are not arranged on the list in a specific order. Therefore, the remembrance of the items on the list depends on how an individual has organized them.     

Similarities and differences

      Paired-Serial, serial and free recall learning are influenced by the way items are arranged on a list (Eysenck, 2009). In free recall learning the words at the end and the beginning of the list can be recalled easily, while in serial learning an individual is able to recall items on a list because they are arranged systematically . It has been found that in serial learning individuals tend to recall less material than in free recall because the former type of learning requires individuals to recall materials in a particular order. The paired-associate learning is the easiest type of learning in which an individual is presented with two items in a pair so that one of the items can be used to arouse remembrance of the other item.  This type of learning is therefore different from both serial and recall learning because it does not depend on the arrangement of items on a list.


      Verbal learning takes place on the basis of verbal associations. It is comprised of serial, paired-associative, and free recall learning which have been found to bear similarities as well as differences from each other. The recall in both serial and free recall aspects of verbal learning depends on the arrangement of items on a list . Paired-associative learning involves two items in a pair such that one of the items can arouse the remembrance of the other when they have been presented in a pair for some time.     

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