Academic journal article Memory & Cognition

List-Method Directed Forgetting: The Forget Cue Improves Both Encoding and Retrieval of Postcue Information

Academic journal article Memory & Cognition

List-Method Directed Forgetting: The Forget Cue Improves Both Encoding and Retrieval of Postcue Information

Article excerpt

Published online: 17 May 2012

# Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2012

Abstract In list-method directed forgetting, people are cued to forget a previously studied item list and to learn a new list instead. Such cuing typically leads to forgetting of the first list and to memory enhancement of the second, referred to as list 1 forgetting and list 2 enhancement. In the present study, two experiments are reported that examined influences of items' serial learning position in a list and the two lists' output order on list-method directed forgetting. The results show that list output order influences list 2 enhancement but not list 1 forgetting. The enhancement was higher when list 2 was recalled first than when list 1 was recalled first and, in both cases, was higher for early list 2 items than for middle and late list 2 items. In contrast, the forgetting was equally present for all list 1 items and did not depend on the two lists' output order. The findings suggest that two separate factors can contribute to list 2 enhancement: one (encoding) factor that is restricted to early list 2 items and does not depend on list output order, and another (retrieval) factor that pertains to all list 2 items and varies with the two lists' output order. A new two-mechanism account of directed forgetting is suggested that reconciles previous (encoding or retrieval) views on list 2 enhancement.

Keywords Directed forgetting . List output order . Serial list position . Reset of encoding . Interference

People's memory for newly encoded information can be enhanced by cuing them to forget related older information. Corresponding evidence arises from list-method directed forgetting. In this paradigm, participants study two lists of items and, after study of list 1, receive a cue to either forget or continue remembering this list. Following study of list 2, all participants are asked to recall the items of the two lists, irrespective of original cuing. As compared with remembercued participants, forget-cued participants typically recall more list 2 items and fewer list 1 items, referred to as list 2 enhancement and list 1 forgetting (for reviews, see Bäuml, Pastötter & Hanslmayr, 2010; MacLeod, 1998). The finding demonstrates that a forget cue can improve recall of subsequently encoded, supposedly relevant material and, simultaneously, can impair recall of previously encoded, supposedly irrelevant information.

Accounts of list-method directed forgetting

In earlier work, directed forgetting has been attributed to a single mechanism responsible for both list 2 enhancement and list 1 forgetting. The selective rehearsal account, for instance, assumes that during list 2 encoding, participants in the remember condition rehearse both list 2 and list 1 items, whereas in the forget condition, they selectively rehearse the list 2 items, thus improving later recall of list 2 at the expense of list 1 (R. A. Bjork, 1970). The retrieval inhibition account assumes that forget-cued participants engage in active inhibitory processes that reduce access to the list 1 context and, due to the resulting decrease in the list's interference potential, facilitate memory for list 2 items (Geiselman, Bjork & Fishman, 1983). Finally, the context change account claims that the forget cue induces a change in participants' internal context, which then impairs list 1 recall, due to a mismatch between the context at encoding and the context at retrieval, and improves later list 2 recall, due to a reduction in interference (Sahakyan & Kelley, 2002).

According to one-mechanism accounts of directed forgetting, list 2 enhancement and list 1 forgetting are the two sides of the same coin and, thus, should always occur together. Recently, however, a number of dissociations between the two effects have been reported. For instance, whereas list 1 forgetting has been found to be present irrespective of encoding style, list 2 enhancement has arisen for intentionally encoded material but not for incidentally encoded items (e. …

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