Selective memory searching does not explain the poor recall of future-oriented feedback

Robert A. Nash*, Naomi E. Winstone, Samantha Gregory

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Feedback is invaluable for learning, yet people frequently fail to remember their feedback. Recent studies have demonstrated that people are better at recalling evaluative, past-oriented feedback than directive, future-oriented feedback. This paper tests one possible explanation: namely, that people neglect to search their memory for directive information they have encoded. Participants (N = 759), attempted to recall feedback they had read about their own (Experiment 1) or another person's performance (Experiments 2A−4). We attempted to foster recall of directive feedback via a structured recall task (Experiments 1−2B) or a perspective-taking instruction (Experiment 3). All experiments replicated the preferential recall of evaluative feedback, but our manipulations did not moderate this bias. Experiment 4 replicated the bias using non-educational feedback, and provided tentative indications that it might not translate beyond the feedback domain. The data suggest that selective retrieval processes are not responsible for people's poor recall of directive feedback.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)467-478
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Applied Research in Memory & Cognition
Issue number3
Early online date16 Feb 2021
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2021

Bibliographical note

© 2021, Elsevier. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International

Funding: This research was funded by the Leverhulme Trust (Research Project Grant RPG-2016-189).


  • Directive feedback
  • Education
  • Evaluative feedback
  • Memory bias
  • Structured recall


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