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Cue-Dependent Forgetting

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Cue-Dependent Forgetting

Have you ever walked into a house or shop and instantly started remembering fun times that you spent there? Maybe memories start coming back as you walk around and see specific items. Your memories could be happy or sad, and the location could be as small as a car or as big as a city! Your environment triggers your long-term memory to release information into your conscious mind.

Godden and Baddeley’s (1974) study on cue-dependent forgetting

Much research has been conducted to investigate how retrieval failure can explain forgetting. In the following article, we will look at Godden and Baddeley's (1975)'s study on cue-dependent forgetting. But first, what is the cue context-dependent forgetting in psychology? Let's look at the definition.

Retrieval failure, or cue-dependent forgetting, is intended to explain the failure to recall information without memory cues.

Godden and Baddeley (1975) conducted experimental research to highlight the importance of environmental settings in memory retrieval.

Cue-Dependent Forgetting a photo of three blank, black polaroid prints on a wood background StudySmarterPhotos as memory cues, pixabay.com

Procedures of Godden and Baddeley

18 deep-sea divers were invited to participate in the study. Participants were asked to memorise a list of 36 unrelated words of two or three syllables. Participants were split into two groups. One group did the learning section on the beach, and the other group did underwater.

Half of the beach learners remained on the beach when they were asked to remember the words. The rest had to recall underwater. Also, half of the underwater learners remained underwater to recall, and the others had to recall on the beach.

Findings of Godden and Baddeley

The results show that when the environmental context of learning and recall did not match, participants performed with 40% lower accuracy than the matched group. Godden and Baddeley (1975) concluded that the mismatch between the external cues available at learning and recall led to retrieval failure. This study demonstrates context-dependent forgetting as the difficulty of recall increases due to the lack of external cues found in the context (setting).

Evaluation of studies on cue-dependent forgetting

In the following, we will show you the evaluation of Godden and Baddeley's (1975) study. This discusses the real-world applications, circularity, ecological validity and other kinds of forgetting. Evaluation points are presented in the format of PEEL: Point / Evidence / Explanation / Link.

Cue-Dependent Forgetting a photo of a blank orange post-it note pinned to the wall StudySmarterPost-it as memory cue, pixabay.com

Useful real-world applications

P:The understanding of how environmental context affects memory retrieval has significant real-world applications.
E:For example, Smith (1979) showed that just thinking of the room in which the original learning took place was as effective as actually being in the same place at the time of retrieval.
E:The theory has been helpful to forensic and police work as it helps facilitate recall from eyewitnesses.
L:This means the theory has a real-world practical application making it useful outside of the psychology laboratory.

The absence of cues cannot explain all kinds of forgetting

P:Cue-dependent forgetting is not the only explanation for forgetting in Psychology.
E:For example, the interference theory of forgetting suggests that forgetting happens when memories interfere with and disturb one another; in other words, forgetting occurs when two pieces of information conflict.
E:Further, research evidence by McGeoch & McDonald (1931) showed that the more similar the two pieces of information, the stronger the interference effect. In other words, the more similar the information, the easier it is to forget.
L:Therefore, cue-dependent forgetting may have overlooked the effect of interference on forgetting.

The danger of circularity

P: Research evidence supporting cue-dependent forgetting is criticized for having the risk of circular reasoning.
E:Circular reasoning is a type of informal fallacy in which a conclusion is reached that is not materially different from something that was assumed as a premise of the argument. In other words, the argument assumes what it is supposed to prove.
E:It is worth noticing that no evidence has shown whether the cue has been encoded along with the testing material nor which test materials are successfully stored in particular.
L:We should take the risk of circularity into account. This theory is difficult to refute because it does not explain whether recall failure occurs because the information is not stored or because the right cue is not present.

Lacking ecological validity

P:Godden and Baddeley (1975) lack ecological validity
E:Although this study was carried out in a natural setting, the testing materials were artificial.
E:The word list used in the study had no personal meaning to the participants and didn't resemble actual memory usage in the real world.
L:This implies the results of this study have limited application to the real world due to the lack of ecological validity.

Cue-Dependent Forgetting a photograph of a woman's hands holding a pen and writing in a planner StudySmarterPhone and paper calendars as memory cues, pixabay.com

Cue-Dependent Forgetting - key takeaways

  • Godden and Baddeley (1975) aim to indicate the importance of environmental settings in memory retrieval in a field experiment.
  • The results show that when the environmental context of learning and recall did not match, participants performed with 40% lower accuracy than the matched group.
  • The mismatch between the external cues available at learning and recall led to retrieval failure. The difficulty of recall increases due to the lack of external cues.

  • One strength of Godden and Baddeley (1975) is did understanding cue-dependent forgetting has significant real-world applications.

  • One weakness of Godden and Baddeley (1975) is the lack of ecological validity.

Frequently Asked Questions about Cue-Dependent Forgetting

Cue-dependent forgetting, or retrieval failure, is the failure to recall information without memory cues.

No, under the A level syllabus, cue-dependent theory explains forgetting in long-term memory.

The results of Godden and Baddeley's study show that when the environmental context of learning and recall did not match, participants performed with 40% lower accuracy than the matched group. Godden and Baddeley (1975) concluded that the mismatch between the external cues available at learning and recall led to retrieval failure. 


This study demonstrates context-dependent forgetting as the difficulty of recall increases due to the lack of external cues found in the context (setting).

Final Cue-Dependent Forgetting Quiz

Question

What is the aim of Godden and Baddeley (1975) study?

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Answer

Godden and Baddeley (1975) aim to indicate the importance of environmental settings in memory retrieval.

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Question

What is the setting of Godden and Baddeley's (1975) study?

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Answer

Godden and Baddeley (1975) conducted experimental research in a field setting.

Show question

Question

What are the procedures of Godden and Baddeley (1975) study?


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Answer

18 deep-sea divers were invited to participate in this study. Participants were asked to memorize a list of 36 unrelated words of two or three syllables. Participants were split into two groups. One group did the test on the beach, and the other group underwater. Half of the beach learners remained on the beach when they were asked to remember the words. The rest had to recall underwater. Also, half of the underwater group remained there, and the others had to recall on the beach.

Show question

Question

What are the results of Godden and Baddeley (1975) study?


Show answer

Answer

The results show that when the environmental context of learning and recall did not match, participants performed with 40% lower accuracy than the matched group.

Show question

Question

What are the implications of Godden and Baddeley (1975) study?


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Answer

Godden and Baddeley (1975) concluded that the mismatch between the external cues available at learning and recall led to retrieval failure. This study demonstrates context-dependent forgetting as the difficulty of recall increases due to the lack of external cues.

Show question

Question

Why is Godden and Baddeley (1975) praised for having useful real-world applications?


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Answer

The understanding of cue-dependent forgetting has significant real-world applications. The theory has been helpful to forensic and police work as it helps facilitate recall from eyewitnesses. For example, Smith (1979) showed that just thinking of the room where the original learning took place was as effective as actually being in the same place at the time of retrieval.

Show question

Question

Why is Godden and Baddeley (1975) criticised for having flaws in ecological validity?


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Answer

Godden and Baddeley (1975) lack ecological validity. Although this study was carried out in a natural setting, the testing materials were artificial. The words list used in the study had no personal meaning to the participants and didn't resemble actual memory usage in the real world. This implies the results of this study have limited applications.

Show question

Question

Why is Godden and Baddeley (1975) criticized for having the risk of circularity?


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Answer

When a cue produces a successful recall of a word, researchers presume the cue must have been present at the time of learning. However, if the cue does not result in a successful recall, then researchers treat the cue as not encoded at the time of learning. It is worth noticing that no evidence has shown whether or not the cue has been encoded along with the testing material.

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Question

Is cue-dependent forgetting the only explanation for forgetting?


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Answer

No, cue-independent forgetting is not the only explanation of forgetting in Psychology. For example, the interference theory of forgetting suggests that forgetting happens when memories interfere with and disturb one another; in other words, forgetting occurs when two pieces of information conflict.

Show question

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