- Rethinking inhibition theory: On the problematic status of the inhibition theory for forgetting
- Journal of Memory and Language
- Volume | Issue number
- 68 | 2
- Pages (from-to)
- Document type
- Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences (FMG)
- Psychology Research Institute (PsyRes)
The standard textbook account of interference and forgetting is based on the assumption that retrieval of a memory trace is affected by competition by other memory traces. In recent years, a number of researchers have questioned this view and have proposed an alternative account of forgetting based on a mechanism of suppression. In this inhibition account, such forgetting is due to an inhibitory control process that operates whenever non-target information hinders the retrieval of a specific target item. It is assumed that the memory traces of these non-target items are suppressed or inhibited in order to overcome their interfering effects and it is claimed that this inhibition has a longer-lasting effect on the strength of the suppressed memory traces. In this paper we critically review the claim that the inhibition theory provides a better account of forgetting than more traditional competition-based theories. We discuss the explanations that have been proposed to account for retrieval induced forgetting, the think/no-think paradigm, directed forgetting, the part-list cuing effect, output interference and list-strength effects. We conclude that the theoretical status of inhibition as an explanation for interference and forgetting is problematic. We show that the claim that these findings cannot be explained by standard competition-based accounts is incorrect.
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