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Intentional remembering and intentional forgetting in working and long-term memory


Oberauer, Klaus; Greve, Werner (2022). Intentional remembering and intentional forgetting in working and long-term memory. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 151(3):513-541.

Abstract

We show that the intention to remember information substantially improves recall of that information when maintained in working memory (WM), whereas it does not have the same effect on maintenance in episodic long-term memory (LTM). In eight experiments, participants processed lists of words according to a semantic orienting task in three instruction conditions: to remember, to forget, or an incidental-memory baseline with no instruction. The first two experiments showed better memory for intentional remembering compared to incidental memory for a typical test of WM, but not for a typical test of episodic LTM. The subsequent six experiments determined which of three variables distinguishing typical WM and episodic-LTM tests-delay of test, list length, and proactive interference-are responsible for this difference. The intention to remember improved free-recall performance for short lists (close to the capacity limit of WM), most strongly when tested immediately, and only in the presence of proactive interference. This result supports a functional distinction between WM and episodic LTM: Whereas episodic LTM keeps a nonselective record of experiences for future use, WM holds selectively only the information relevant for the current goal. In addition, we found a beneficial effect of intentional remembering on memory for the list position of words, which was obtained for longer lists and regardless of the delay of testing, probably reflecting episodic LTM. The instruction to forget had no effect compared to the incidental baseline, questioning the assumption of a targeted forgetting process on memory.

Abstract

We show that the intention to remember information substantially improves recall of that information when maintained in working memory (WM), whereas it does not have the same effect on maintenance in episodic long-term memory (LTM). In eight experiments, participants processed lists of words according to a semantic orienting task in three instruction conditions: to remember, to forget, or an incidental-memory baseline with no instruction. The first two experiments showed better memory for intentional remembering compared to incidental memory for a typical test of WM, but not for a typical test of episodic LTM. The subsequent six experiments determined which of three variables distinguishing typical WM and episodic-LTM tests-delay of test, list length, and proactive interference-are responsible for this difference. The intention to remember improved free-recall performance for short lists (close to the capacity limit of WM), most strongly when tested immediately, and only in the presence of proactive interference. This result supports a functional distinction between WM and episodic LTM: Whereas episodic LTM keeps a nonselective record of experiences for future use, WM holds selectively only the information relevant for the current goal. In addition, we found a beneficial effect of intentional remembering on memory for the list position of words, which was obtained for longer lists and regardless of the delay of testing, probably reflecting episodic LTM. The instruction to forget had no effect compared to the incidental baseline, questioning the assumption of a targeted forgetting process on memory.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of Psychology
Dewey Decimal Classification:150 Psychology
Language:English
Date:1 March 2022
Deposited On:15 Oct 2021 11:01
Last Modified:27 Jan 2024 02:41
Publisher:American Psychological Association
ISSN:0096-3445
Additional Information:This article may not exactly replicate the final version published in the APA journal. It is not the copy of record.
OA Status:Green
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1037/xge0001106
PubMed ID:34570560
  • Content: Accepted Version