Retrieval as a Memory Modifier: an Interpretation of Negative Recency and Related Phenomena


Although it is commonplace to assume that the type or level of processing during the input of a verbal item determines the representation of that item in memory, which in turn influences later attempts to store, recognize, or recall that item or similar items, it is much less common to assume that the way in which an item is retrieved from memory is also a potent determiner of that item's subsequent representation in memory. Retrieval from memory is often assumed, implicitly or explicitly, as a process analogous to the way in which the contents of a memory location in a computer are read out, that is, as a process that does not, by itself, modify the state of the retrieved item in memory. In my opinion, however, there is ample evidence for a kind of Heisenberg principle with respect to retrieval processes: an item can seldom, if ever, be retrieved from memory without modifying the representation of that item in memory in significant ways. It is both appropriate and productive, I think, to analyze retrieval processes within the same kind of levels-of-processing framework formulated by Craik and Lockhart ( 1972) with respect to input processes; this chapter is an attempt to do so. In the first of the two main sections below, I explore the extent to which negative-recency phenomena in the long-term recall of a list of items is attributable to differences in levels of retrieval during initial recall. In the second section I present some recent results from ex-

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@inproceedings{Bjork2013RetrievalAA, title={Retrieval as a Memory Modifier: an Interpretation of Negative Recency and Related Phenomena}, author={Robert A. Bjork}, year={2013} }