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Mem Cognit. 2017 Jul;45(5):745-754. doi: 10.3758/s13421-017-0692-5.

The effects of context in item-based directed forgetting: Evidence for "one-shot" context storage.

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Department of Psychology, Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, ON, N2L 3C5, Canada.
Department of Psychology, Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, ON, N2L 3C5, Canada.
Memorial University, St. John's, NL, Canada.


The effects of context on item-based directed forgetting were assessed. Study words were presented against different background pictures and were followed by a cue to remember (R) or forget (F) the target item. The effects of incidental and intentional encoding of context on recognition of the study words were examined in Experiments 1 and 2. Recognition memory for the picture contexts was assessed in Experiments 3a and 3b. Recognition was greater for R-cued compared to F-cued targets, demonstrating an effect of directed forgetting. In contrast, no directed forgetting effect was seen for the background pictures. An effect of context-dependent recognition was seen in Experiments 1 and 2, such that the hit rate and the false-alarm rate were greater for items tested in an old compared to a novel context. An effect of context-dependent discrimination was also observed in Experiment 2 as the hit rate was greater for targets shown in their same old study context compared to a different old context. The effects of context and directed forgetting did not interact. The results are consistent with Malmberg and Shiffrin's (Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 31, 322-336, 2005) "one-shot" context storage hypothesis that assumes that a fixed amount of context is stored in the first 1 to 2 s of the presentation of the study item. The effects of context are independent of item-based directed forgetting because context is encoded prior to the R or F cue, and the differential processing of target information that gives rise to the directed forgetting effect occurs after the cue.


Context dependent discrimination; Context dependent recognition; Directed forgetting effect; Picture recognition

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