Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Retrieval inhibition occurs when related information presented during the act of remembering inhibits recall performance. In the part-list cuing paradigm, subjects are presented with part of a list and asked to recall the rest of the list. A comparison with an uncued condition shows that recall is reduced by the part-list cues. This finding is important because many memory theories propose that lists of words are learned by forming associations between the words and, thus, part-list cues should allow subjects to follow these associations and increase their recall. Shiffrin's SAM (Search of Associative Memory) theory of memory retrieval provides the most promising explanation for the part-list curing effect. The purpose of the present research was to apply the SAM theory to two new retrieval inhibition situations and evaluate its performance. In Experiments 1 and 2 it was shown that part-list cues that are delayed for short periods (15 or 30 seconds) inhibit written recall, while cues delayed for long periods (1, 2, or 4 minutes) have no effect. A computer simulation program based on the SAM theory was able to model the correct effects of delayed cues in this situation. In Experiment 3 the effects of delayed part-list cues were examined under verbal recall conditions and it was found that cues delayed for long periods (3 minutes) facilitated recall performance. However, the SAM simulation program was not able to model the effects of delayed cues in this situation. In a fourth experiment the sampling rule in the SAM theory was evaluated. The SAM theory predicts that strong items in memory should block the recall of weaker items. Experiment 4 showed that the blocking effect produced by strong items is quite small, but the SAM simulation program modelled the correct amount of blocking. Thus, the present research provided important new evidence on the effects of part-list cues and the competition action of items in memory. Further, the SAM theory of memory retrieval was able to model most of the data, although some important problems with the theory were discovered.



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