It is well known that practicing retrieval of remembered items increases the probability of correctly recalling that item in future tests: the testing effect. Retrieval-induced forgetting (RIFo) and retrieval-induced facilitation (RIFa) are less known, but related phenomena with, in my view, large theoretical and practical implications for cognitive memory research and educational theory.
In RIFo, learned items associated with a remembered item subjected to retrieval practice appear to suffer from increased forgetting in future tests (Anderson, Bjork and Bjork, 1994). Some papers report that the inverse also appears to occur: in RIFa, the probability of recalling associated remembered items also increases (Chan, 2009). RIFo appears to be a reasonably robust phenomenon with many replications, while RIFa is not as well established an effect.
The cognitive neuroscience of RIF
Where the classical view might have attributed the effect to relative strengthening of associations and decay, modern theories revolve around variations on an automatic inhibition process associated with recall attempts (Anderson, Bjork and Bjork, 2000). This might suggest that the PFC and frontal cortex more generally should be doing most of the legwork here, but is that empirically the case?
What are the known neural substrates of RIFo (and RIFa) effects?
- Anderson, M. C., Bjork, E. L., & Bjork, R. A. (2000). Retrieval-induced forgetting: Evidence for a recall-specific mechanism. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 7(3), 522-530.
- Anderson, M. C., Bjork, R. A., & Bjork, E. L. (1994). Remembering can cause forgetting: retrieval dynamics in long-term memory. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 20(5), 1063.
- Chan, J. C. (2009). When does retrieval induce forgetting and when does it induce facilitation? Implications for retrieval inhibition, testing effect, and text processing. Journal of Memory and Language, 61(2), 153-170.