Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Experimental Psychology

Competitive Retrieval Is Not a Prerequisite for Forgetting in the Retrieval Practice Paradigm

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Experimental Psychology

Competitive Retrieval Is Not a Prerequisite for Forgetting in the Retrieval Practice Paradigm

Article excerpt

Retrieval-induced forgetting is the phenomenon that retrieving information can lead to forgetting of related information (e.g., Anderson, Bjork, & Bjork, 1994). Retrieval-induced forgetting is studied using the retrieval practice paradigm. In the study phase, a list of category-exemplar pairs (e.g., FRUIT-apple, FRUITbanana, ANIMAL-caf) is studied. During the subsequent retrievalpractice phase, half of the items from half of the studied categories receive retrieval practice in the form of category-plus-stem cued recall (e.g., FRUIT-ap_). The practiced items are called Rp + items and the nonpracticed items from these categories are called Rp- items. Categories from which none of the items are practiced (e.g., ANIMAL-caf) are called Nrp categories and are used as a baseline. In the final test phase, all items are presented for cued recall (e.g., FRUIT-a_). As one would expect, retrieval practice improves recall for Rp+ items relative to Nrp baseline items. More surprisingly, performing retrieval practice with Rp+ items impairs recall for Rp- items relative to Nrp items. Thus, performing retrieval practice on exemplars from a particular category decreases recall for other exemplars from the same category.

The dominant account of retrieval-induced forgetting in the literature is the inhibition account (e.g., Anderson, 2003; Anderson et al., 1994; Anderson & Spellman, 1995; Storm & Levy, 2012). According this account, when retrieval practice is performed (e.g., FRUIT-ap_) several items that are associated with the cue compete for retrieval (e.g., apple, banana). For the correct answer to be retrieved, the remaining, competing items need to be inhibited. This inhibition process then makes the competing items less available, so that the target can be retrieved more easily.

Anderson (2003) discusses a number of properties of retrievalinduced forgetting that provide evidence in favour of the inhibition account. Although these properties have been extensively investigated, some controversy still exists whether they provide sufficient evidence in support of the inhibition theory as opposed to interference-based accounts or to a context-based account (see Anderson, 2003; Jonker, Seli, & MacLeod, 2013; Raaijmakers & Jakab, 2013; Storm & Levy, 2012; Verde, 2012, for reviews).

The aim of the current study was to further investigate one of these properties: competition dependence. The inhibition account of forgetting predicts that competition between responses at retrieval practice is necessary for retrieval-induced forgetting to occur. This competition is presumably resolved by inhibitory processes, so that the target response is eventually retrieved (Anderson, 2003). It follows that practicing with Rp+ items in a way that causes no competition should not induce forgetting according to the inhibition account, because there is no need for suppression.

Several studies have investigated this prediction. The general finding from at least seven studies is that noncompetitive retrieval practice or restudy of the items leads to an increase in recall for Rp+ items, but not to forgetting of Rp- items. Forgetting is only found in these studies when competitive retrieval is required (e.g., Anderson & Bell, 2001; Anderson, Bjork, & Bjork, 2000; Ciranni & Shimamura, 1999; see Raaijmakers & Jakab, 2013, for an overview). However, three recent studies have provided evidence that competitive retrieval may not be the crucial factor underlying the results of these studies. Raaijmakers and Jakab (2012) showed that a noncompetitive retrieval practice task previously used by Anderson et al. (2000) (recalling the category when the exemplar is given as cue: FR_-orange) could induce forgetting when the task was made more challenging. By grouping exemplars by properties (e.g., ROUND-button), using low-frequency items and giving feedback after each retrieval practice trial, Raaijmakers and Jakab (2012) optimized strengthening of the category-exemplar association and did find a forgetting effect. …

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