Master of Arts (MA)



Document Type



Recent work has shown that intentional forgetting of distracting, erroneous, or irrelevant information aids memory, and relies on active, effortful processes. Two experiments investigated the underlying attentional mechanisms that are active during directed forgetting (DF). Across both experiments, participants completed a modified item-method DF task, in which they received memory instructions to remember or forget individual images for a subsequent memory test. Participants studied items associated with remember or forget instructions before they were shown a subliminal presentation of target items. Finally, participants responded to probes by identifying briefly shown letters to assess how attention and item identity information are inhibited following forget instructions. In Experiment 1, after studying items, participants completed either an explicit memory test (recognition) or an implicit memory task (perceptual identification). Experiment 2 extended the findings of Experiment 1 by examining how spatial information is inhibited following instructions to forget, given spatial components in many recent investigations of DF (e.g., Fawcett & Taylor, 2008, 2010; Taylor, 2005). Although it was predicted that active forgetting would be associated with attentional inhibition linked to both item identity and spatial location, results revealed no inhibitory effects during speeded probe responses across both experiments. However, clear forgetting effects were observed, with participants exhibiting better memory for items they were cued to remember, relative to items they were cued to forget. The results of both experiments support the hypothesis that some information is lost or degraded by instructions to intentionally forget, but raise further questions about the nature of attentional withdrawal proposed to occur during a DF task.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Papesh, Megan



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Psychology Commons