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ERIC Number: EJ1060139
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2015-May
Pages: 9
Abstractor: As Provided
ISSN: ISSN-0278-7393
No Recovery of Memory When Cognitive Load Is Decreased
Ricker, Timothy J.; Vergauwe, Evie; Hinrichs, Garrett A.; Blume, Christopher L.; Cowan, Nelson
Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, v41 n3 p872-880 May 2015
There is substantial debate in the field of short-term memory (STM) as to whether the process of active maintenance occurs through memory-trace reactivation or repair. A key difference between these 2 potential mechanisms is that a repair mechanism should lead to recovery of forgotten information. The ability to recover forgotten memories would be a panacea for STM and if possible, would warrant much future research. We examine the topic of STM recovery by varying the cognitive load of a secondary task and duration of retention of word pairs. In our key manipulation, we lighten the cognitive load partway through the retention interval, resulting in an easier task during the later portion of retention and more time for active maintenance processes to take place. Although the natural prediction arising from a repair mechanism is that memory accuracy should increase after transitioning to an easier load, we find that accuracy decreases or levels off at this point. We see this pattern across 3 experiments and can only conclude that the panacea of STM recovery does not exist. Implications for the debate over memory maintenance mechanisms are discussed.
American Psychological Association. Journals Department, 750 First Street NE, Washington, DC 20002. Tel: 800-374-2721; Tel: 202-336-5510; Fax: 202-336-5502; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: Higher Education; Postsecondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: National Institute of Mental Health (DHHS/NIH); Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) (NIH)
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Missouri
Grant or Contract Numbers: 1F31MH094050; 2R01HD021338