Academic journal article Memory & Cognition

Retrieval-Induced Forgetting in Recall and Recognition of Thematically Related and Unrelated Sentences

Academic journal article Memory & Cognition

Retrieval-Induced Forgetting in Recall and Recognition of Thematically Related and Unrelated Sentences

Article excerpt

In three experiments, we assessed the effects of type of relation and memory test on retrieval-induced forgetting of facts. In Experiments 1 and 2, eight sets of four shared-subject sentences were presented for study. They were constructed so that half were thematically related and half were unrelated. A retrieval practice phase required participants to recall a subset of the studied sentences. In the final test, the participants were prompted to recall all the sentences (character cued in Experiment 1 and character plus stem cued in Experiment 2). The results showed that the retrieval-induced forgetting (RIF) effect was similar for thematically related and unrelated sentences, indicating that the presence of episodic relations among the sentences was sufficient to produce the effect. In Experiment 3, a recognition task was introduced and the RIF effect emerged in accuracy as well as in latency measures. The presence of this effect with item-specific cues is difficult to accommodate for noninhibitory theories of retrieval.

A number of findings suggest that the very act of retrieving information may be a source of forgetting (see, e.g., M. C. Anderson, E. L. Bjork, & R. A. Bjork, 2000; M. C. Anderson, R. A. Bjork, & E. L. Bjork, 1994; Blaxton & Neely, 1983; Brown, 1981; Roediger, 1978; see M. C. Anderson, 2003, and M. C. Anderson & Neely, 1996, for reviews). Although prior retrieval increases the probability of retrieving the recovered items in a subsequent memory test, those items that were not initially recovered and that were associated with the same retrieval cue are less likely to be recalled in a subsequent memory test relative to control items. This phenomenon is known as retrieval-induced forgetting (RIF; see M. C. Anderson, 2003, for a review).

One of the procedures for studying this effect is the retrieval practice paradigm designed by M. C. Anderson et al. (1994). The procedure consists of three phases. In the first phase, participants study a list of category-exemplar pairs (e.g., Fruit-Orange). In the retrieval practice phase, participants are asked to cue-recall half of the exemplars of half of the presented categories (hereafter referred to as Rp+ items). For example, participants are presented with the cue Fruit-Or____ and are asked to produce the complete name of the exemplar. After a retention interval, participants are presented with all the studied category names and asked to recall as many exemplars as possible from each of the presented categories. The effect of retrieval practice on subsequent recall is observed by comparing the probability of recall of unpracticed exemplars belonging to practiced categories (henceforth referred to as Rp- items) with the probability of recall of exemplars from unpracticed categories (henceforth referred to as Nrp items). RIF is observed when the probability of recalling the Rp- items is significantly lower than the probability of recalling the Nrp items.

The most common interpretation of RIF is in terms of inhibition (see, e.g., M. C. Anderson, 2003; M. C. Anderson & Bell, 2001; M. C. Anderson & McCulloch, 1999; M. C. Anderson & Spellman, 1995; see also Blaxton & Neely, 1983; Carr & Dagenbach, 1990). For example, M. C. Anderson proposes that inhibition in memory retrieval works in a manner similar to that of the inhibitory processes that act in other cognitive domains, such as language processing or selective attention (see, e.g., M. C. Anderson et al., 1994; Neill, Valdes, & Terry, 1995; Posner & Presti, 1987). Inhibitory processes would be in charge of suppressing the "internal distraction" caused by competing items during memory retrieval. Thus, during the retrieval practice phase, unpracticed exemplars from practiced categories are inhibited to reduce their competing effects (M. C. Anderson et al., 1994; M. C. Anderson & Spellman, 1995). Hence, when later tested in the memory test, their representations are inhibited and it would be harder to recover them. …

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