Resolving Interference Between Body Movements: Retrieval-Induced Forgetting of Motor Sequences

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When body movements are stored in memory in an organized manner, linked to a common retrieval cue like the effector with which to execute the movement, interference may arise as soon as one initiates the execution of a specific body movement in the presence of the retrieval cue because related motor programs also are activated. We investigated the resolution of such interference between motor programs. Participants learned several sequential finger movements, each consisting of the movement of 2 fingers of either the left or the right hand. Subsequently, they performed retrieval practice on half of the items of 1 hand. A final recall test then assessed memory for all initially learned items. In 3 experiments, retrieval-induced forgetting occurred; that is, retrieval practice impaired the recall of unpracticed movements belonging to the practiced hand. The results suggest that retrieval-based inhibition resolved interference between motor programs pertaining to the same hand, thereby pointing to a common principle pertaining to different domains of human information processing, concerning verbal, perceptual, or motor information.

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