Academic journal article International Journal of Psychology and Psychological Therapy

Revision of Retrieval Theory of Forgetting: What Does Make Information Context-Specific?

Academic journal article International Journal of Psychology and Psychological Therapy

Revision of Retrieval Theory of Forgetting: What Does Make Information Context-Specific?

Article excerpt

The role of context in retrieval of information has received a considerable amount of attention during the past century, both in animal and human memory research (e.g., Bouton, 1993; Bouton, Nelson, & Rosas, 1999; McGeoch, 1942; Tulving, 1983; see also García Gutiérrez & Rosas, 2003a,b,c; Rosas, Vila, Lugo, & López, 2001). Conditioning and human predictive learning literatures both have shown that the context where learning takes place plays an important role on retrieval of the information.

However, context is not always a relevant factor for retrieving the information. The review of the literature on context-switch effects conducted by Bouton (1993; see also Bouton et al., 1999) shows that contexts seem to be an essential factor on retrieval of the interfering information, that is, on information that competes with previously learned information. For instance, when a cue is paired with an outcome in one context (i.e., A), and then extinguished by its presentation without the outcome in a different context (i.e., B), returning to the original context during the test leads to retrieval of acquisition performance in a phenomenon that has been called ABA renewal (e.g., Bouton & Bolles, 1979; Bouton & King, 1983; Goddard, 1999; Nakajima, Tanaka, Urushiara, & Imada, 2000, Rosas & Bouton, 1997, 1998). A similar effect has been reported when acquisition and extinction are conducted in the same context, and the test is conducted in a different context (i.e., AAB renewal, Bouton & Ricker, 1994; Rosas, García Gutiérrez & Callejas Aguilera, Note 1; Thomas, Larsen, & Ayres, 2003), and when acquisition, extinction, and testing are conducted in three different contexts (i.e., ABC renewal, Thomas et al., 2003). These three forms of renewal show that the context where extinction occurs is an important factor for retrieving the information about extinction, when the meaning of the cue has become ambiguous in the sense that the cue predicts both, the presence and the absence of the outcome.

However, the context seems to play a small role on retrieval when the meaning of the information to be retrieved is unambiguous, that is, it has not been interfered by new learning. This lack of effects of context change on retrieval of unambiguous information has been shown through a variety of conditioning procedures, like conditioned suppression (e.g., Bouton & King, 1983), and magazine training (e.g., Bouton & Peck, 1989). For instance, Rosas and Bouton (1998) trained rats in a conditioned taste aversion procedure. In this procedure, flavoured water is administered to a water-deprived rat, followed by gastric malaise -usually produced by intra-peritoneal administration of Lithium Chloride. The result of this procedure is that the rat rejects the flavour the next time it is exposed to it. In the study conducted by Rosas and Bouton (1998), conditioning took place in a context, and extinction was conducted in either the same context, or in a different, but equally familiar context. These authors found that extinction proceeded similarly, regardless of the context where it took place.

Contrarily to these results, context change has been found to produce a deleterious effect on performance in some situations (e.g., Hall & Honey, 1990). Though in some of these reports the context change might imply a perceptual alteration of the target cue (e.g., Archer & Sjôden, 1979), allowing for an interpretation of the result as a generalization decrement because of the perceptual change in the target cue (e.g., Pearce, 1987, 1994), there are some examples in the literature where that interpretation is unlikely. For instance, Bonardi, Honey, and Hall (1990) conducted a study about the effects of context change on rats' conditioned taste aversion. Conditioning took place in a context, and the test took place in a different but equally familiar context (a box with distinct features). In their first experiment the test was conducted after a single conditioning trial, finding the most common result in the literature: Perfect transfer of aversion across different contexts. …

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