Selective Memory Retrieval Can Impair and Improve Retrieval of Other Memories

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Research from the past decades has shown that retrieval of a specific memory (e.g., retrieving part of a previous vacation) typically attenuates retrieval of other memories (e.g., memories for other details of the event), causing retrieval-induced forgetting. More recently, however, it has been shown that retrieval can both attenuate and aid recall of other memories (K.-H. T. Bäuml & A. Samenieh, 2010). To identify the circumstances under which retrieval aids recall, the authors examined retrieval dynamics in listwise directed forgetting, context-dependent forgetting, proactive interference, and in the absence of any induced memory impairment. They found beneficial effects of selective retrieval in listwise directed forgetting and context-dependent forgetting but detrimental effects in all the other conditions. Because context-dependent forgetting and listwise directed forgetting arguably reflect impaired context access, the results suggest that memory retrieval aids recall of memories that are subject to impaired context access but attenuates recall in the absence of such circumstances. The findings are consistent with a 2-factor account of memory retrieval and suggest the existence of 2 faces of memory retrieval.

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