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Similarity and inhibition in long-term memory: Evidence for a two-factor theory

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

Published

Journal publication date09/2000
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory and Cognition
Journal number5
Volume26
Number of pages19
Pages1141-1159
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

Recalling a past experience often requires the suppression of related memories that compete with the retrieval target, causing memory impairment known as retrieval-induced forgetting. Two experiments examined how retrieval-induced forgetting varies with the similarity of the competitor and the target item (target-competitor similarity) and with the similarity between the competitors themselves (competitor-competitor similarity). According to the pattern-suppression model (M. C. Anderson & B. A. Spellman, 1995), high target-competitor similarity should reduce impairment, whereas high competitor-competitor similarity should increase it. Both predictions were supported: Encoding target-competitor similarities not only eliminated retrieval-induced forgetting but also reversed it, whereas encoding competitor-competitor similarities increased impairment. The differing effects of target-competitor and competitor-competitor similarity may resolve conflicting results concerning the effects of similarity on inhibition.