How motor practice shapes memory: retrieval but not extra study can cause forgetting
We investigated the retrieval specificity of retrieval-induced forgetting (RIF) of motor sequences. In two experiments, participants learned sequential finger movements, each consisting of the movement of two fingers of either the left or the right hand. In the learning phase, these motor sequences were graphically presented and were to be learned as responses to simultaneously presented letter stimuli. Subsequently, participants selectively practiced half the items of one hand. A final recall test then assessed memory for all initially learned items. We contrasted different kinds of selective practice with each other. Whereas retrieval practice required retrieving motor sequences in response to letter stimuli from the learning phase, extra study was an extension of the learning phase, that is, participants performed motor sequences in response to the same animation graphic display as in the learning phase again accompanied by the letter stimulus. All practice conditions strengthened the practiced items, but only retrieval practice resulted in RIF. Thus, the strengthening of items through practice did not suffice to induce forgetting of related motor sequences. Retrieval was a necessary component for practice to shape memory for body movements by impairing the subsequent recall of motor sequences that were related to the practiced motor sequences.
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