Investigating retrieval-induced forgetting during information requirements determination

Radha Appan, Glenn J. Browne

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Successful systems development requires that appropriate and accurate information be gathered from people who use or will use the system. One critical issue in information gathering is the recall of relevant information by users and other stakeholders. Prior research has shown that users do not recall all the relevant information they have about the requirements for systems, and we suggest that this problem is exacerbated by current systems development practice, in which the same users are often interviewed multiple times by analysts. A potential theoretical explanation for recall failure in requirements determination is the psychological phenomenon known as Retrieval-Induced Forgetting. Retrieval-Induced Forgetting (RIF) theory and empirical findings show that when people are asked to recall information about a situation multiple times, they are likely to recall the same information on subsequent attempts as they recalled on the first attempt (to the exclusion of other relevant information). Although the RIF phenomenon has been investigated in several contexts, such as eyewitness testimony, there have been no studies that have examined the issue in applied contexts such as systems development, in which prior domain knowledge exists and has been learned over a period of time by users and other stakeholders. In the current study, experimental results showed the presence of RIF in both short-term and longer-term information requirements determination (IRD) contexts, thereby providing a memory-based explanation for missing requirements in IRD. Our results have strong implications for the type and sequencing of requirements elicitation techniques and demonstrate threats to both traditional and iterative development methodologies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)250-275
Number of pages26
JournalJournal of the Association for Information Systems
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2010


  • Information requirements determination
  • Joint application development
  • Knowledge elicitation
  • Memory
  • Recall
  • Retrieval-induced forgetting
  • Systems development


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