Academic journal article Psychonomic Bulletin & Review

Retrieval-Induced Forgetting in Implicit Memory Tests: The Role of Test Awareness

Academic journal article Psychonomic Bulletin & Review

Retrieval-Induced Forgetting in Implicit Memory Tests: The Role of Test Awareness

Article excerpt

Retrieval practice with particular items in memory may result in decreased recall of different, semantically related, items. This retrieval-induced forgetting effect has been demonstrated in studies using explicit memory tests. Anderson and Spellman (1995) have attributed retrieval-induced forgetting to inhibitory mechanisms. This hypothesis predicts similar effects in implicit memory tasks. In our first experiment, using Anderson and Spellman's original paradigm, retrieval-induced forgetting was found using an explicit memory test with independent extralist retrieval cues. In our second experiment, using the same materials, retrieval-induced forgetting was also found using an implicit memory test with independent extralist retrieval cues, but only for participants who were aware of the relationship between the study and practice phase on the one hand, and the test phase of the experiment on the other. Thus, test awareness seems to mediate retrieval-induced forgetting in implicit memory tasks.

A number of studies using the retrieval-practice paradigm have shown that inhibition can play a role in retrieval from memory (for a review, see Anderson, 2003). In the retrieval-practice paradigm, participants first study a number of category-exemplar pairs, followed by retrieval practice with half of the studied exemplars from half of the studied categories. Retrieval practice is carried out using a category-plus-word-stem cued recall task. Their memory is then tested for both practiced and unpracticed exemplars. Typically, results show an increase in recall for practiced items (RP+ items) and a decrease in recall for unpracticed items (RP- items) that belong to the same category as the practiced items, when compared with exemplars from categories that received no retrieval practice (NRP items). In this final recall test, the names of the studied categories are used as cues.

Anderson and Spellman (1995) adapted the retrieval-practice paradigm and found retrieval-induced forgetting using independent extralist retrieval cues. These results led Anderson and Spellman to conclude that retrieval-induced forgetting is an inhibitory effect and that the relation between the category and the exemplar or between the practiced and unpracticed items within the category is not inhibited, but rather the unpracticed item itself. They considered cue-independent forgetting to be an empirical criterion for inhibition.

However, if retrieval-induced forgetting is due to item inhibition, it should also be found using different types of tests. In principle, the retrieval-induced forgetting effect should be found with any type of test assessing the activation of the inhibited item. A number of studies have investigated the validity of this claim using implicit memory tasks rather than the category-cued recall task used traditionally in the test phase of the retrieval-practice paradigm. Unlike what is done in explicit memory tasks such as category-cued recall, no reference is made to the study phase in implicit memory tasks.

Butler, Williams, Zacks, and Maki (2001) used a word-fragment completion task to test implicit memory in the retrieval-practice paradigm. They did not obtain retrieval-induced forgetting. Nor did they obtain retrieval-induced forgetting in several experiments with explicit tests of memory such as word-fragment-cued recall, category-plus-word-fragment-cued recall, and category-plus-stem-cued recall. They found retrieval-induced forgetting only in the standard category-cued recall condition. Therefore, retrieval-induced forgetting seems to depend more on visually presenting a part of the target item than on whether the final memory test is implicit or explicit. In addition, Butler et al. note that most participants detected the connection between the test phase and the study and practice phases. Therefore, the word-fragment completion task could not be regarded as truly implicit.

Perfect, Moulin, Conway, and Perry (2002) used five different tests of implicit memory in the retrieval-practice paradigm: category generation, category verification, perceptual identification, category-cued perceptual identification, and word-stem completion. …

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