Inhibitory control in memory: evidence for negative priming in free recall
Marsh, J. E., Beaman, C. P., Hughes, R. W. and Jones, D. M. (2012) Inhibitory control in memory: evidence for negative priming in free recall. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory & Cognitio, 38 (5). pp. 1377-1388. ISSN 1939-1285
To link to this article DOI: 10.1037/a0027849
Cognitive control mechanisms—such as inhibition—decrease the likelihood that goal-directed activity is ceded to irrelevant events. Here, we use the action of auditory distraction to show how retrieval from episodic long-term memory is affected by competitor inhibition. Typically, a sequence of to-be-ignored spoken distracters drawn from the same semantic category as a list of visually-presented to-be-recalled items impairs free recall performance. In line with competitor inhibition theory (Anderson, 2003), free recall was worse for items on a probe trial if they were a repeat of distracter items presented during the previous, prime, trial (Experiment 1). This effect was only produced when the distracters were dominant members of the same category as the to-be-recalled items on the prime. For prime trials in which distracters were low-dominant members of the to-be-remembered item category or were unrelated to that category—and hence not strong competitors for retrieval—positive priming was found (Experiments 2 & 3). These results are discussed in terms of inhibitory approaches to negative priming and memory retrieval.