Episodic generation can cause semantic forgetting: retrieval-induced forgetting of false memories

Jeffrey J. Starns, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA.
Jason L. Hicks


In two experiments, we tested whether false recognition and false recall were prone to retrieval-induced forgetting, using the retrieval practice paradigm (Anderson, Bjork, & Bjork, 1994). Participants encoded lists of cue-target word pairs associated with a nonpresented, critical theme word and then engaged in retrieval practice for half of the word pairs from half of the lists. As expected, unpracticed targets from practiced lists were recognized (Experiment 1) and recalled (Experiment 2) less well than those from unpracticed lists. In addition, false recognition and false recall of critical items associated with practiced lists was lower than false recognition and false recall of items associated with unpracticed lists. We argue that false memories are prone to inhibitory mechanisms engendered by the retrieval practice paradigm. The results are consistent with the claim that semantically activated critical themes interfere with the episodic retrieval of list words and that inhibition decreases the activation level of these interfering memory representations during retrieval practice.