Graduation Year


Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Linguistics and Cognitive Science

Reader 1

Laura Johnson

Reader 2

Michael Spezio

Terms of Use & License Information

Terms of Use for work posted in Scholarship@Claremont.

Rights Information

©2020 Elizabeth T. Willsmore-Finkle


Currently, psychological research explores autism, a blanket term for a range of neurobiological and developmental differences, through a clinical, as opposed to an experiential, lens. Autism has only existed as formal diagnosis under that name since 1943 (Kanner); however, the advocacy of activists such as Temple Grandin, a slaughterhouse systems designer best known for documenting her life with autism in a series of autobiographic accounts, has begun to legitimize the incorporation of emic experiences of autism within clinical research. Researcher Dermot Bowler and colleagues (2011) have conducted extensive reviews of memory distinctions in autism, finding differences of varying degrees across variety of memory types. However, the retrieval-induced forgetting mechanism, first demonstrated by Michael Anderson et al. in 1994, wherein remembering can cause forgetting of unpracticed semantically related stimuli, has not been explored in autistic populations. Additionally, individuals with autism have, outside published literature, reported experiencing a temporary amnesia for the day’s events after experiencing stress; something also not explored by Bowler or other researchers. This pilot study seeks to understand 1) whether individuals with autism show retrieval-induced forgetting and 2) whether temporary forgetting post-stress is specific to autism, and, if so, what characteristics make it distinct. The results indicate that individuals with autism do exhibit retrieval-induced forgetting and that differences in relational memory processing, specifically, item dependent versus semantic, are associated with this temporary forgetting effect. Future research should investigate whether retrieval-induced forgetting exists in autism under stress and conduct a variety of different qualitative surveys on the autistic experience of temporary forgetting.