Forgetting as a consequence of retrieval: a meta-analytic review of retrieval-induced forgetting

Psychol Bull. 2014 Sep;140(5):1383-409. doi: 10.1037/a0037505.


Retrieving a subset of items can cause the forgetting of other items, a phenomenon referred to as retrieval-induced forgetting. According to some theorists, retrieval-induced forgetting is the consequence of an inhibitory mechanism that acts to reduce the accessibility of nontarget items that interfere with the retrieval of target items. Other theorists argue that inhibition is unnecessary to account for retrieval-induced forgetting, contending instead that the phenomenon can be best explained by noninhibitory mechanisms, such as strength-based competition or blocking. The current article provides the first major meta-analysis of retrieval-induced forgetting, conducted with the primary purpose of quantitatively evaluating the multitude of findings that have been used to contrast these 2 theoretical viewpoints. The results largely supported inhibition accounts but also provided some challenging evidence, with the nature of the results often varying as a function of how retrieval-induced forgetting was assessed. Implications for further research and theory development are discussed.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Attention / physiology
  • Cues
  • Humans
  • Individuality
  • Inhibition, Psychological*
  • Mental Recall*
  • Practice, Psychological