Forgetting- Retrieval Failure

  • Created by: HanRed16
  • Created on: 16-10-18 12:49

Retrieval Failure

Retrieval failure is a matter of accessibilty rather than availbility. This is the failure to find an item of infromation due to a lack of clues or cues.

As we store a new memory, we also store the context about the situation- known as the retieval cues. So when we return to the same situation, these retrieval cues can trigger the memory.

‘Encoding Specificity Principle’ (Tulving) = “the greater the similarity between the encoding event and the retrieval event, the greater the likelihood of recalling the original memory.”

These retrieval cues can be:

  • Context- external clues (the enviroment (e.g. smell and place))
  • State- internal clues (mental state at the time)
1 of 4

Context-dependent forgetting

Context-the setting or situation in which information is encoded and retrieved. This can also include how the information is presented.

Tulving and Pearlstone (1966) asked participants to learn lists of words belonging to different categories and then asked them to recall them.

Those who were given the category names recalled substantially more words than those who were not. The category offering a retrival cue.

Tulving and Pearlstone argued that cue-dependent forgetting explains the difference between the two groups of participants. Those who recalled fewer words lacked appropriate retrieval cues.

2 of 4

State-dependent forgetting

State-the physical or mental state you were in at the time of forming the memory can act as a cue.

A study by Goodwin et al. (1969) investigated the effect of alcohol on state-dependent retrieval.

They found that when people encoded information when drunk, they were more likely to recall it in the same state.

People tend to remember material better when there is a match between their mood at learning and at retrieval.

The effects are stronger when the participants are in a positive mood than a negative mood.

They are also greater when people try to remember events having personal relevance.

3 of 4


There is a lot of research support: including lab,field and natural experiments as well as anecdotal evidence (reports/obsevations) and thus has relevance to everyday memory experiences. This can be seen by Godden and Baddeley who found participants who learned a list of words in the one condition and had to recall it in the same conditon had 40% higher recollection then participants who mixed and matched conditions.

Research can be seen by the fact it made use of extreme situations: this can be seen by the fact contexts such as above or below water are more extreme then the cues seen in real life. This reduces the theory's face validity.

Essentially not testable: this can be seen by the fact if the recollection does increase due to cues, we say they were encoded, whereas if it doesn't we simple say the cue wasn't remembered. This means the theory is bases only of assumptions and no real evidence decreasing the validity.

Practical application: this can be seen by examples such police interviews where the police try and reinstate the context to increase what witnesses remember. It shows its usefullnes in the real world.

4 of 4


No comments have yet been made

Similar Psychology resources:

See all Psychology resources »See all Memory resources »