Recognition-induced forgetting is caused by episodic, not semantic, memory retrieval tasks


Recognition-induced forgetting is a within-category forgetting effect that results from accessing memory representations. Advantages of this paradigm include the possibility of testing the memory of young children using visual objects before they can read, the testing of multiple types of stimuli, and use with animal models. Yet it is unknown whether just episodic memory tasks (Have you seen this before?) or also semantic memory tasks (Is this bigger than a loaf of bread?) will lead to this forgetting effect. This distinction will be critical in establishing a model of recognition-induced forgetting. Here, we implemented a design in which both these tasks were used in the same experiment to determine which was leading to recognition-induced forgetting. We found that episodic memory tasks, but not semantic memory tasks, created within-category forgetting. These results show that the difference-of-Gaussian forgetting function of recognition-induced forgetting is triggered by episodic memory tasks and is not driven by the same underlying memory signal as semantic memory.

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  1. 1.

    This design is typical of the practice phase in recognition-induced forgetting studies, where old objects are practiced twice during the study phase and new objects are not repeated while subjects are engaged in an old–new recognition judgment task. If new objects were repeated, on the second trial the correct response would be “old.”

  2. 2.

    The method suggested by Feenan and Snodgrass (1990) was used to calculate both Pr and Br involving H and FA. Br values greater than .5 are indicative of a liberal bias, whereas values lower than .5 indicate a conservative bias. When calculating Br, Pr values of 1 were changed to .99. Please see Ian Neath’s useful website for more information (


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Correspondence to Ashleigh M. Maxcey.

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Maxcey, A.M., McCann, M. & Stallkamp, S. Recognition-induced forgetting is caused by episodic, not semantic, memory retrieval tasks. Atten Percept Psychophys 82, 1539–1547 (2020).

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  • Recognition-induced forgetting
  • Retrieval-induced forgetting
  • Long-term memory
  • Visual long-term memory
  • Forgetting
  • Semantic memory
  • Episodic memory