Can inhibition resolve retrieval competition through the control of spreading activation?

Jo Saunders, Malcolm MacLeod

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59 Citations (Scopus)


Two experiments are reported in which the mechanisms underlying retrieval-induced forgetting for complex prose materials were investigated, using the independent probe technique pioneered by Anderson and Spellman (1995). These experiments provide additional empirical evidence in support of an inhibitory account of memory. Specifically, evidence emerged not only for the inhibition of nonpracticed items from practiced sets (i.e., first-order effects), but also for the inhibition of items from nonpracticed sets that were semantically related to practiced items in practiced sets (i.e., cross-category effects) and for items from nonpracticed sets that were semantically related to nonpracticed items in practiced sets (i.e., second-order effects). These findings are considered in terms of Anderson and Spellman's model of inhibitory processing. We also outline an alternative inhibitory interpretation. Specifically, we consider how inhibition may function as a way of controlling the spread of activation and what implications this may have for the flexibility and adaptiveness of memory.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)307-322
Number of pages16
JournalMemory and Cognition
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2006


  • inhibition
  • human information storage
  • memory

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