Evaluating retrieval failure as an explanation of forgetting


Evaluating retrieval failure as an explanation of forgetting


  • Real world applications - it has been found that though cues may not have a large impact on forgetting it is still important to use them in everyday situations. Baddeley says that returning to the environment (either physically or mentally) in which the information was learned to improve memory. This is an example of overcoming retrieval failure.
  • Research support - Godden and Baddeley, Carter and Cassaday, and Eysenck and Keane have all researched into retrieval failure and produced similar results. This concludes that retrieval failure occurs both inside and outside of a lab, making it valid.


  • Countering research support - Baddeley says that context effects are not that strong, as most of the time, contexts do not vary enough (such as between kitchen and bedroom). This shows that retrieval failure may not contribute to much of everyday forgetting
  • Recall vs recognition - Godden and Baddeley replicated their experiment testing recognition instead of recall, and found that  recognition negates context and performance was identical in every condition. This suggests that retrieval failure only apples to forgetting in recall, not recognition.
  • Encoding specificity principle - Tulving says that for a cue to be significant it must be present at both the time of learning and time of recall. It is hard to control whether a cue is encoded or not. This limits the explanation of retrieval failure.


Retrieval failure is a more comprehensive explanation of forgetting but also has its weaknesses. 


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