Junior (College 3rd year) ・Psychology ・APA ・5 Sources

Everyone is prone to forgetting significant occurrences from their past. The memory phenomena that causes this is known as forgot-it-all-along (FIA). According to Arnold and Lindsay's research, remembering a word in multiple situations or methods makes it simple to forget recalling that phrase on the first occasion (2002, 2005). It has also been discovered that visual imagery stimuli are more effective than verbal stimuli in prompting the recall of long-forgotten memories (Rubin, 2005). According to studies, humans might experience experiences, forget about them totally over time, and then suddenly recollect them. This means that individuals can forget about an occurrence.To test this forgot-it-all-along-effect, a three phase experiment was conducted in which volunteering participants were given a list of word pairs, each pair containing a cue and a target, and were prompted to recall the target word and then state if they remember recalling the correct word. This report presents the findings of the tests that were carried out.

Literature Review

So much controversy surrounds the events of recovered memory (Conway, 1997). It was discovered that people entering psychotherapy sometimes suddenly just recover memories of certain events they experienced a long time ago. Most of the memories are usually of sexual abuse. Some of the memories are sometimes not real events (Schooler, Bendiksen & Ambadar, 1997). Studies have also demonstrated that the process of remembering past instances of remembering is an erroneous one (Schooler et al., 1997). In their study, Schooler et al. discovered that some two women reported that they had recovered a memory of childhood sexual abuse, but when prompted further, denied ever remembering such an event at the time the abuse was said to have been forgotten. These findings lead researchers to question the circumstances that lead to forgetting previous memories of events and which circumstances or contexts determine the judgment about previous recollections.

It is easier to remember events when there is a close match between the processes that take place at encoding and retrieval (Tulving & Thompson, 1973). For instance, the women in the study by Schooler et al. could have remembered the abuse they supposedly went through in different manners on different occasions. One may easily remember just being abused while another can remember the specific emotional details of the abuse. If one tries to remember the emotional details of the abuse that she just thought of as just an abuse in the past, the emotional details would be poor cues and the woman would forget the episodes of remembering the abuse. The contention was tested by Arnold and Lindsay who experimented in different ways. In their tests, they cued participants to try and recall similar and different ways. The recall tests were conducted in two cues. The researchers’ hypothesis was that the participants would not remember having recalled a particular word on test one if the cue they had been given prompted them to think of the word in a different way on the two tests.

From their studies, Arnold and Lindsay (2002) have stated that it is easier to remember a memory when the context is the same than when the context is different. Their findings revealed that manipulating the meanings of homographs during the tests made the participants more likely to forget ever previously having any recollections of the words. The researchers also found out that even if the meanings of the homographs were not changed but minor shifts were made, the FIA effect was experienced (Arnold & Lindsay, 2005). Arnold and Lindsay (2005) went further to show that even when their judgments were wrong, participants were very confident in their past recall judgments. The current study was designed to confirm whether there is any statistically significant difference between recalling and judgement in the same and different contexts.



50 students at California State University were contacted and asked if they would be willing to participate in an academic experiment that would be conducted online. Among the students contacted, only half volunteered to participate in the study. On the actual day of the commencement of the study, two students could not be reached, one had commitments elsewhere and one started the tests but did not complete the study stating it was a waste of time. The remaining 21 students volunteered and completed the study and gave valid results. Only five students are taking the cognitive psychology class. The participants consisted of males and females and none of them was colour-blind. None of the students had any impairment in their vision. Three days were allowed for the completion of the study so that the students could do the study at their own convenient time.


The participants completed the study using a tablet or a computer and a keyboard. The cue was a word in small letters and the target was a related word written in uppercase letters. Both the cues and targets were restricted to six-lettered words or lower. To make sure that there were no hidden data, the participants were asked before starting the experiment to ensure they could see a rectangle below the web page. This would help in ensuring that the participants could see the full area.


Participants chose whether they wanted to take the tests using their tablets or computers. To begin the trial using their tablets, the participants were asked to tap Start Next Trial button. For Phase II, they were asked to tap on Yes button if the uppercase word was in Phase I and No if the uppercase word was not in Phase I. For the participants who completed the stud using a computer, they were required to click Start Next Trial button to start the trial and to click Yes in Phase II if the uppercase word was in Phase I and No if the uppercase word was not in Phase I. In Phase I of the experiment, the participants were informed that they would look at a list of word pairs, one a cue and another one a target. They were asked to silently read the word pairs to themselves. Each of the word pairs was shown for about 3 seconds. After all 44 pairs of words had been shown to the participants, they could move to Phase II of the experiment.

In Phase II, the participants were given a cued-recall test. They were shown a cue and were then asked to try and recall the word that had been presented with it in Phase I (the target word). To further assist them in remembering, they were given parts of the target word. They would give their response by typing in the missing letters of the target word. If they could not remember the target, they were informed that they could just type any other letters. After completing all the cues, the participants could move to the last phase of the study.

In Phase III, the participants were again shown a cue and a target pair. This time, they were asked to state whether they recalled the target in Phase II. If they remembered recalling the target word in Phase II, they could respond with a Yes. If they did not remember recalling the target word, they would respond with No. At the end of the experiment, the participants were asked to save their data.

If a participant typed in the correct letters to complete the target word in Phase II, it indicated that they correctly remembered the word. Typing in a wrong word indicated that they had difficulty remembering the word. In Phase III, if a participant said Yes to remembering the target word correctly in Phase II but they did not actually remember it correctly, it would mean they had difficulty recalling whether they had any prior memory of the target word. Indicating No when they did not remember the word correctly in Phase II indicates that they do not recall remembering the word at all in the first place.


A 2 (task: recall/judge) x 2 (context: same word/different word) repeated measures ANOVA was performed on the proportion of correct change detection judgments. There was a significant main effect of task, F (1, 20)=11.92, MSE=233.086, p< 0.005, ηp2= 0.373. Participants made a higher proportion of correct judgments when the word was the same as the word they had recalled in Phase II (M= 76.44, SE= 2.207) than when the word was different (M= 64.94, SE= 2.240). There was also a main effect of context F(1, 20)= 251.43, MSE= 75.89, p< 0.005, ηp2= 0.926. Participants made a higher proportion of correct judgments when the words were the same (M= 85.76, SE= 1.347) than when there was a change (M= 55.62, SE= 2.081). These effects were qualified by a significant interaction, F(1, 20)= 51.33, MSE= 113.33, p<. 0.005, ηp2= 0.005. Follow-up simple main effect analysis of the recall conditions [F (1, 20)=35.75, MSE=53.51, p< 0.005, ηp2= 0.641] revealed that participants’ judgments were far less accurate when there was a change than when there wasn’t (see Figure 1). Simple main effect analysis of the judgment conditions [F (1, 20)=840.07, MSE=210.82, p< 0.005, ηp2= 0.977] also revealed a difference in judgment accuracy between the judgment conditions with same words in both judgment conditions.

The expected interaction reached statistical significance, F(1, 20)= 2302.51, MSE= 182.29, p< 0.005, ηp2= 0.991. However, the analysis revealed a strong observed power (1.000). This combined with the relatively large estimate of effect size may indicate that there was in fact an interaction, and the current experiment had the statistical power to reveal it. This is a reasonable inference to make given the small sample attained.

Figure 1: Estimated Marginal Means


The projections that had been made concerning the ability to remember a previous word pair in a same context than in a different context were supported by the study data. This was especially so when the target words were kept similar to the ones to which the participant had been introduced as they started the experiment. When the words were changed or slightly altered, the judgment of the participants seemed to be less accurate.

These results are very consistent with what was explained by Schooner et al. (1997) in their experiment with the women who remembered their past experience with sexual violence. Different contexts can trigger different memories of remembering a word or an event in the past. The task itself acts as stimuli, though at a smaller degree, to correct or incorrect memory of past recollection of an event. The study has also confirmed that people can actually discover a memory of an event that they never had any experience with, otherwise termed as a false positive. Some people can also forget completely and not recall remembering an event that they actually experienced. This is in agreement with Conway’s findings (1997).

Despite the conformity of the results of current and past studies into the forgot-it-all effect, there are still limitations that the current study was not able to address. There is the issue of the applicability of the short duration lab tests to the real life situations. One might have experienced an event ten years ago and discover the memory today. This situation is not the same as one who remembers a word in a minute, forgets it, and then fails to remember ever recalling such a word in a few minutes time. Further studies to examine the applicability of the lab results in real life would be very important.


Arnold, M. M., & Lindsay, D. S. (2005). Remembrance of remembrance past. Memory, 13, 533- 549. Arnold, M. M., & Lindsay, D. S. (2002). Remembering remembering. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, & Cognition, 28, 521-529.

Conway, M.A. (1997). Recovered memories and false memories. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Rubin, D. C. (2005). A basic-systems approach to autobiographical memory. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 14, 79-83.

Schooler, J. W., Ambadar, Z., & Bendiksen, M. (1997). A cognitive corroborative case study approach for investigating discovered memories of sexual abuse. In J. D. Read and D.S. Lindsay (Eds.), Recollections of trauma: Scientific evidence and clinical practice (pp. 379- 387). New York and London: Plenum Press.

Tulving, E. & Thomson, D. M. (1973). Encoding specificity and retrieval processes in episodic memory. Psychological Review, 80, 352-373.

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