transfer of learning

What is Transfer of Learning In Psychology? Definition and Types

What is Transfer of Learning?

When a skill learned in one task influences, the learning of another task we call it transfer of learning. It is also called transfer of training. It can occur in both motor and verbal learning.


  • Positive transfer
  • Negative transfer
  • Zero transfer

Let’s understand them,

Positive Transfer of Learning

If learning one skill facilitates learning of another we have the positive transfer effect. In the positive transfer of learning the influence is progressive and coordinating to later learning.

For example, if a student learns a multiplication table s/he finds mathematics easy. Training in computer or electronics accelerates training in engineering, physics, and so on. There are several occasions where we find formal education is transferred to different situations.

Positive transfer depends upon several factors:

  • Similarity of contents
  • Similarity of techniques
  • Similarity of principles

These factors work when symbols, language, formal rules, techniques, and constructions are alike,

Contents: Knowledge of the Nepali language makes it easier to study the Hindi language because of similarity in scripts, and so on. Learning one stanza of a poem helps to recite and remember another stanza even if changes occur. Similarly, learning English facilitates French.

Techniques: After learning to drive a car an individual can master the control of a jeep or other types of vehicles. If a student learns to apply ‘x’ and ‘y’ formula to mathematics applies the same to other problems of mathematics.

Principles: When subjects learn to solve puzzles in one problem often find it easy to solve other similar problems due to similarity of principles. We apply different principles to solve our everyday problems through positive transfer.

Negative Transfer

If learning one skill hamper the acquisition of another skill we call it negative transfer of learning. This phenomenon is also called habit interference. Negative transference creates difficulty in future learning of the skill. It occurs because what we have learned in earlier situations sends our thinking in the wrong direction interfering with our solution.

Habit interference occurs in everyday life situations. If a person drives a right-hand car s/he often has difficulty with a left-hand drive. Likewise, if we apply the principles of riding a bicycle in rowing a boat we may fall into a trap.

Negative transfer is also seen with verbal learning. While writing the date we may continue to write September after October has arrived. Likewise, we may continue to remember our former car number after the purchase of the new car.

Zero Transfer

When no transfer occurs between two tasks we call it zero transfer or neutral transfer. In zero transfer, the acquisition of skill in one task neither facilitates the learning of another task nor interferes, such a situation is called zero transfer or no transfer. For example, learning mathematics may have no effect on learning Nepali language.

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