Retrieval-induced forgetting in children and adolescents with and without obesity

Terry L. Davidson*, Eliana Ramirez, Esther A. Kwarteng, Kweku G. Djan, Loie M. Faulkner, Megan N. Parker, Shanna B. Yang, Anna Zenno, Nichole R. Kelly, Lisa M. Shank, Marian Tanofsky-Kraff, Anastasia Snelling, Sarah Irvine Belson, Alexia Hyde, Kong Y. Chen, Jack A. Yanovski

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Background/objectives: Previous research indicates that youth with obesity exhibit deficits in executive functioning (EF), which often take the form of impaired response inhibition. One aspect of EF not previously studied in obesity is the adaptive process known as retrieval-induced forgetting (RIF), the suppression/inhibition of intrusive or non-target items by the retrieval of specific items from memory. The present study investigated if child or adolescent obesity disrupts the ability to inhibit retrieval of intrusive memories. Subjects/methods: We compared the manifestation of RIF in children (ages 8–12) and adolescents (ages 13–18) as a function of their weight status and sex. We also evaluated the effects of these variables on simple recall of items from episodic memory under conditions where competition from intrusive items was reduced. Results: Children with obesity did not demonstrate significant RIF, whereas RIF was exhibited by preteens without obesity and by teenage participants with- and without obesity (Weight Status × Age Group interaction p = 0.028). This pattern of results did not differ as a function of sex for either age group. No differences in episodic memory were found. Additional analyses using Age as continuous covariate (and not as a nominal group) comparing participants who exhibited RIF with those who did not, found that the no RIF group consumed fast-food meals more frequently (p = 0.024) and had higher percentages of total body adiposity and android fat compared to the RIF group (p’s < 0.05). Conclusions: The findings expand what is known about the effects of childhood obesity on cognitive functioning, identify impaired RIF with specific behavioral and dietary factors and increased adiposity, and suggest the possibility that impairments in the ability to inhibit intrusive memories of food and eating may contribute to poor early-life weight control.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)851-858
Number of pages8
JournalInternational Journal of Obesity
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2022
Externally publishedYes


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