Academic journal article Memory & Cognition

Where Is the Forgetting with List-Method Directed Forgetting in Recognition?

Academic journal article Memory & Cognition

Where Is the Forgetting with List-Method Directed Forgetting in Recognition?

Article excerpt

Despite the fact that list-method directed forgetting instruction leads to decreases in memory performance on tests of free recall, there are to date no published reports of comparable effects in recognition testing. In the present article, we evaluated whether conditions that promote the importance of context in recognition, either via stimulus selection (Experiments 1 and 2) or by test choice (Experiment 3), elicit directed forgetting impairment. In all three experiments, we obtained reliable recognition deficits, suggesting that the typical conditions of recognition, rather than recognition itself, underlie the discrepancy between the tests of recognition and free recall in list-method directed forgetting.

In directed forgetting studies, participants are instructed to either forget or remember certain earlier studied items. Instructions to forget or remember can be delivered either on an item-by-item basis or after an entire list of items has been presented (known as the item method and the list method of directed forgetting, respectively). Directed forgetting instructions reduce memory for to-be-forgotten (TBF) items as compared with to-be-remembered (TBR) items (for reviews, see E. L. Bjork, Bjork, & Anderson, 1998; MacLeod, 1998; and Johnson, 1994) on tests of free recall and recognition when the item method is used (see, e.g., Basden, Basden, & Gargano, 1993; MacLeod, 1999), but only on recall tests when the list method is used (Basden et al., 1993; Benjamin, 2006; E. L. Bjork & Bjork, 2003; Block, 1971; Conway, Harries, Noyes, Racsma'ny, & Frankish, 2000; Elmes, Adams, & Roediger, 1970; Geiselman, Bjork, & Fishman, 1983; Gross, Barresi, & Smith, 1970; Sahakyan & Delaney, 2005; Whetstone, Cross, & Whetstone, 1996). In the present article, we will argue that the list-method directed forgetting impairment reflects the deleterious effect of a study-test context mismatch, and we will demonstrate that such effects emerge in recognition when stimuli are used or when tests are employed that enhance the utilization of contextual characteristics.

List-Method Paradigm and Basic Findings

In a typical list-method directed forgetting experiment, participants study two lists of items for a memory test. After the first list, half of them are told to forget that list because it was only for practice or because it was the wrong list, and that there is therefore no need to remember those items. The remaining participants are told to keep remembering the list. Both groups proceed to study a second list; then, they are given a memory test for all items (including any items that the participants were instructed to forget). In free recall, the directed forgetting effect consists of two components-the costs and benefits of directed forgetting. The costs refer to impaired recall of List 1 items in the forget group relative to the remember group, whereas the benefits refer to enhanced recall of List 2 items in the forget group relative to the remember group. Our focus in the present study was the enigmatic absence of directed forgetting costs in recognition, despite the fact that the benefits appear to be robust (see, e.g., Benjamin, 2006; Sahakyan & Delaney, 2005). The present strategy for understanding why the costs are not apparent involved exploring conditions under which those costs could be made to reappear. To do so, we took a lesson from studies of the role of global environmental context in recognition. First, however, we will briefly review how the findings from recognition of intentionally forgotten material are problematic for historical and contemporary theoretical accounts of directed forgetting.

Recognition Testing and Theoretical Accounts of the Directed Forgetting Effect

Single-process accounts of list-method directed forgetting invoke the same underlying mechanism to explain the costs and the benefits of directed forgetting, and they have included selective rehearsal (see, e. …

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