Retrieval-induced forgetting: Evidence for a recall-specific mechanism

Author: Michael Anderson, Elizabeth Bjork, Robert Bjork

Year: 2000

Paper Description

The study was designed to explore whether retrieval-induced forgetting (a unique instance of forgetting casued by the act of the retrieval of knowledge from long-term memory – see Anderson, Bjork and Bjork, 1994) required retrieval to manifest. The performance of two groups exposed to different experimental conditions was observed and used to inform the findings presented by the authors. Participants were 64 undergraduate students who participated to fulfill the requements of their psychology course.

Key Takeaway 1

The results showed that retrieval-induced forgetting (RIF) only occurred when participants were asked to recall the practice targets. This suggests that the inhibitory processes that underlie RIF are only activated when you are trying to remember something.

Key Takeaway 2

Retrieval-induced forgetting (RIF) is an important phenomenon to understand because it can have a significant impact on learning and memory. For example, RIF can make it difficult to learn new information that is related to information that you already know. RIF can also make it difficult to recall information in situations where you are under pressure or where there is interference from other stimuli.

Standout Quote

“Although such self-tests can be very effective at enhancing the retrieval ofnewly acquired information, that accessibility may come at the price of inhibiting other highly retrievable knowledge.”


memory, retrieval practice, cognitive science, brain, learning, remembering, knowledge, maintenance, thinking, forgetting, disuse, recognition, context, cognitive psychology, encoding