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ERIC Number: EJ1092178
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2016-Mar
Pages: 15
Abstractor: As Provided
ISSN: ISSN-0278-7393
Fragile Associations Coexist with Robust Memories for Precise Details in Long-Term Memory
Lew, Timothy F.; Pashler, Harold E.; Vul, Edward
Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, v42 n3 p379-393 Mar 2016
What happens to memories as we forget? They might gradually lose fidelity, lose their associations (and thus be retrieved in response to the incorrect cues), or be completely lost. Typical long-term memory studies assess memory as a binary outcome (correct/incorrect), and cannot distinguish these different kinds of forgetting. Here we assess long-term memory for scalar information, thus allowing us to quantify how different sources of error diminish as we learn, and accumulate as we forget. We trained subjects on visual and verbal continuous quantities (the locations of objects and the distances between major cities, respectively), tested subjects after extended delays, and estimated whether recall errors arose due to imprecise estimates, misassociations, or complete forgetting. Although subjects quickly formed precise memories and retained them for a long time, they were slow to learn correct associations and quick to forget them. These results suggest that long-term recall is especially limited in its ability to form and retain associations.
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: Office of Naval Research (ONR); National Science Foundation (NSF)
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: California
Grant or Contract Numbers: N000141010072; SBE5820542013