Why two heads apart are better than two heads together

Multiple mechanisms underlie the collaborative inhibition effect in memory

Sarah J. Barber*, Celia B. Harris, Suparna Rajaram

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

35 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Although a group of people working together remembers more than any one individual, they recall less than their predicted potential. This finding is known as collaborative inhibition and is generally thought to arise due to retrieval disruption. However, there is growing evidence that is inconsistent with the retrieval disruption account, suggesting that additional mechanisms also contribute to collaborative inhibition. In the current studies, we examined 2 alternate mechanisms: retrieval inhibition and retrieval blocking. To identify the contributions of retrieval disruption, retrieval inhibition, and retrieval blocking, we tested how collaborative recall of entirely unshared information influences subsequent individual recall and individual recognition memory. If collaborative inhibition is due solely to retrieval disruption, then there should be a release from the negative effects of collaboration on subsequent individual recall and recognition tests. If it is due to retrieval inhibition, then the negative effects of collaboration should persist on both individual recall and recognition memory tests. Finally, if it is due to retrieval blocking, then the impairment should persist on subsequent individual free recall, but not recognition, tests. Novel to the current study, results suggest that retrieval inhibition plays a role in the collaborative inhibition effect. The negative effects of collaboration persisted on a subsequent, always-individual, free-recall test (Experiment 1) and also on a subsequent, always-individual, recognition test (Experiment 2). However, consistent with the retrieval disruption account, this deficit was attenuated (Experiment 1). Together, these results suggest that, in addition to retrieval disruption, multiple mechanisms play a role in collaborative inhibition.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)559-566
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition
Volume41
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2015

Keywords

  • Collaborative inhibition
  • Retrieval blocking part-set cuing
  • Retrieval disruption
  • Retrieval inhibition

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