When remembering causes forgetting: retrieval-induced forgetting as recovery failure

J Exp Psychol Learn Mem Cogn. 2005 Nov;31(6):1221-34. doi: 10.1037/0278-7393.31.6.1221.


Retrieval practice on a subset of previously learned material can cause forgetting of the unpracticed material and make it inaccessible to consciousness. Such inaccessibility may arise because the material is no longer sampled from the set of to-be-recalled items, or, though sampled, its representation is not complete enough to be recovered into consciousness. In 2 experiments, it was examined whether retrieval-induced forgetting reflects a sampling or recovery failure by studying the time course of cued recall in this type of situation. Although retrieval practice reduced recall totals of the unpracticed items, in both experiments, the forgetting was not accompanied by an effect on the items' response latencies. This pattern of results is consistent with the view that inhibited items are successfully sampled but, because of a reduction in their activation level, do not exceed the recovery threshold.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Memory*
  • Mental Recall
  • Reaction Time