From A to Z? Retrieval‐induced forgetting of non‐verbal information indicates how writing systems can shape memory organisation

Rui Chen, Yun Tao, Zhi Liu, Tobias Tempel
Published Online:
29 May 2019

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We investigated retrieval‐induced forgetting of motor sequences in samples of Chinese participants. Retrieval‐induced forgetting occurs when selective retrieval of a subset of information stored in memory causes forgetting for the non‐retrieved rest. This phenomenon critically depends on the organised storage of separate categories of memory representations. In studies with participants from a Western culture (Germany), a categorization in left‐ and right‐hand movements previously had been supported by letter stimuli based on a spatial mental representation of the Roman alphabet. The same assignment of letters from the beginning or end of the alphabet to motor sequences performed either with the left‐ or the right‐hand did not entail retrieval‐induced forgetting in the present study, however (Experiment 1). In Experiment 2, visual features of displaying to‐be‐learned sequences additionally supported a distinction into left and right. In Experiment 3, learning trials provided verbal category labels. The occurrence of retrieval‐induced forgetting in the latter two experiments suggests language‐dependent organisation of non‐verbal items in memory.

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