Retrieval Failure


Retrieval Failure

When we dont have the neccessary cues to access a memory.

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A trigger of information.

  • may be meaningful or indirectly linked to the time of learning
  • can be external or internal
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Encoding Specifity Principle- CUES

TULVING- discovered a pattern

  • cue must be present at encoding and retrieval
  • if the cues a different (at encoding or retrieval)- forgetting
  • cues can be linked to the material in a meaningful way.
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Context-Dependent Forgetting


Procedure- the divers learned a list of words

The Four Conditions:

  • learn on land, recall on land
  • learn on land, recall underwater
  • learn underwater, recall underwater
  • learn underwater, recall on land


  • If the environment matched- recall was better
  • 40% less accurate recall for non-matching
  • the external cues were different at encoding and recall- retrieval failure
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State Dependent Forgetting


Procedure- learn word lists while...

  • ppts took anti-histamines, made them slightly drowsey
  • creates a unique internal state, different from normal state of alertness

The Four Conditions-

  • learn on drug/off drug, recall on drug
  • learn on drug/off drug, recall off drug


  • Matched conditons- better recall
  • worse recall where internal state was a mismatch- absence of cues meant forgetting
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