Rate of forgetting is independent of initial degree of learning

Karim Rivera-Lares, Robert H Logie, Alan Baddeley, S Della Sala

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


t is commonly assumed that the rate of forgetting depends on initial degree of learning. Hence, comparison of forgetting across groups is usually carried out equating initial performance. However, these matching procedures add confounding variables. In four experiments, following Slamecka and McElree (1983, Exp 3), we challenge this assumption through manipulating initial acquisition by varying the number of presentations of the material and studying the effect on rate of subsequent forgetting. A set of 36 sentences was presented either visually or auditorily. Different participants were exposed to the material two, four or six times. Forgetting was measured by means of a cued recall test at three time-intervals (30 s, 1 day and 1 week in experiments 1 and 2; 30 s, 1 day, and 3 days in experiments 3 and 4). A different subset of 12 sentences was tested at each delay. The outcome of these experiments showed that the initial acquisition depends on number of learning trials. However, the rate of forgetting proved to be independent of initial acquisition. This pattern remains constant across modalities of presentation and of the number of learning trials. The conclusion is that forgetting does not depend on initial acquisition.
Original languageEnglish
JournalMemory & Cognition
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 6 Jan 2022


  • Long-term Forgetting
  • Repeated Testing
  • Forgetting Rates

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