How Forgetting Aids Heuristic Inference

Lael J. Schooler, Ralph Hertwig

Research output: Chapter in Book/Entry/PoemChapter

1 Scopus citations


Some theorists, ranging from W. James (1890) to contemporary psychologists, have argued that forgetting is the key to proper functioning of memory. The chapter elaborates on the notion of beneficial forgetting by proposing that loss of information aids inference heuristics that exploit mnemonic information. To this end, the chapter brings together two research programs that take an ecological approach to studying cognition. Specifically, it implements fast-and-frugal heuristics within the ACT-R cognitive architecture. Simulations of the recognition heuristic, which relies on systematic failures of recognition to infer which of two objects scores higher on a criterion value, demonstrate that forgetting can boost accuracy by increasing the chances that only one object is recognized. Simulations of the fluency heuristic, which arrives at the same inference on the basis of the speed with which objects are recognized, indicate that forgetting aids the discrimination between the objects' recognition speeds.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationHeuristics
Subtitle of host publicationThe Foundations of Adaptive Behavior
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9780199894727
ISBN (Print)9780199744282
StatePublished - May 1 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Act-r
  • Fluency
  • Forgetting
  • Heuristics
  • Memory
  • Recognition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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