Definition: Stimuli that are used to bring a memory to consciousness or into behavior.

Quite Simply...


  • Smells, emotions (etc.) that trigger and bring memories to mind
  • Anything that helps you recall a memory, where the stronger the hint is, the easier it is to remember the memory.
  • The stronger the retrieval cue, the easier it will be for the memory to appear
  • "Search terms" for your memory.

Examples of Retrevial Cues


  • The smell of fresh-baked cookies remind you of your grandmother's house
  • A war veteran who suffers from PTSD may hear a loud boom from a firework which triggers a memory of him at war
  • Those who suffer from deprssion may be so caught up in that state of mind they contiue to think of sad or depressing thoughts
  • Seeing a picture of the character Dory from Finding Nemo reminds you of psych class because thats how you learned the definition of maintenance rehearsal.
  • Seeing the local park which reminds you of when you fell off the monkey bars and broke your arm for the first time
  • Multiple choice test questions have retrieval cues in the questions and since the correct answer is on the page
  • When your friend tries to remind you about an event, he will bring up retrieval ques, or detail of the event, in order to jog your memory.

Additional Resources



  1. http://psychology.about.com/od/cognitivepsychology/a/memory_retrival.htm

See Also...

- Implicit and Explicit Memory
- Priming
-Recall and Recognition