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Does Retrieving a Memory Insulate It Against Memory Inhibition? A Retroactive Interference Study

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Anderson, Michael 
Hulbert, Justin 


Several recent studies suggest that an initial retrieval attempt imbues retrieved memories with special resilience against future interference and other forgetting mechanisms. Here we report two experiments examining whether memories established through initial retrieval remain subject to retrieval-induced forgetting. Using a version of a classical retroactive interference design, we trained participants on a list of A-B pairs via anticipation—constituting a form of retrieval practice. After next training participants on interfering A-C pairs, they performed 0-12 additional A-C anticipation trials. Because these trials required retrieval of A-C pairs, they should function similarly to retrieval practice in paradigms establishing retrieval-induced forgetting. We observed robust evidence that retroactive interference generalizes to final memory tests involving novel, independent memory probes. Moreover, in contrast to practicing retrieval of A-C items, their extra study failed to induce cue-independent forgetting of the original B items. Together, these findings substantiate the role of retrieval-related inhibitory processes in a traditional retroactive interference design. Importantly, they indicate that an initial retrieval attempt on a competitor does not abolish retrieval-induced forgetting, at least not in the context of this classic design. Although such an attempt may protect against inhibition in some circumstances, the nature of those circumstances remains to be understood.



Retrieval-induced forgetting, cue-independent forgetting, inhibitory control, retroactive interference, Adult, Attention, Cues, Female, Humans, Inhibition, Psychological, Male, Mental Recall, Practice, Psychological, Young Adult

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Taylor & Francis
MRC (unknown)
Medical Research Council (MC_UU_00005/1)