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Directed forgetting in working memory


Dames, Hannah; Oberauer, Klaus (2022). Directed forgetting in working memory. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 151(12):2990-3008.

Abstract

How does the intent to remember or forget information affect working memory (WM)? To explore this question, in four experiments, we gauged the availability of the to-be-forgotten information directly. Participants remembered six words presented sequentially in separate frames. After each word offset, the frame turned either blue or orange, indicating a to-be-remembered or to-be-forgotten word, respectively. In all experiments, consistently poor recognition performance for to-be-forgotten words and facilitation of to-be-remembered words demonstrated that intent has a strong impact on WM. These directed-forgetting effects are remarkably robust: They can be observed when testing the to-be-forgotten words up to four times (Experiment 1, n = 341), for both item and binding memory (Experiment 3, n = 124), and even when information has to be maintained in WM up to 5 s until the memory cue is presented (Experiment 2 + 4, n = 302 + 321). Our study establishes a new method to jointly study the effects of intent on WM content for both relevant and irrelevant information and provides evidence for directed forgetting in WM. Our research suggests that a combination of two processes causes directed forgetting in WM: One process reduces memory strength of earlier memory representations as a function of subsequently encoded events. Another process rapidly encodes or boosts memory strength only when the person intends to remember that information.

Abstract

How does the intent to remember or forget information affect working memory (WM)? To explore this question, in four experiments, we gauged the availability of the to-be-forgotten information directly. Participants remembered six words presented sequentially in separate frames. After each word offset, the frame turned either blue or orange, indicating a to-be-remembered or to-be-forgotten word, respectively. In all experiments, consistently poor recognition performance for to-be-forgotten words and facilitation of to-be-remembered words demonstrated that intent has a strong impact on WM. These directed-forgetting effects are remarkably robust: They can be observed when testing the to-be-forgotten words up to four times (Experiment 1, n = 341), for both item and binding memory (Experiment 3, n = 124), and even when information has to be maintained in WM up to 5 s until the memory cue is presented (Experiment 2 + 4, n = 302 + 321). Our study establishes a new method to jointly study the effects of intent on WM content for both relevant and irrelevant information and provides evidence for directed forgetting in WM. Our research suggests that a combination of two processes causes directed forgetting in WM: One process reduces memory strength of earlier memory representations as a function of subsequently encoded events. Another process rapidly encodes or boosts memory strength only when the person intends to remember that information.

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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
Scopus Subject Areas:Social Sciences & Humanities > Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
Social Sciences & Humanities > General Psychology
Life Sciences > Developmental Neuroscience
Uncontrolled Keywords:Developmental Neuroscience, General Psychology, Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
Language:English
Date:1 December 2022
Deposited On:02 Dec 2022 09:17
Last Modified:31 Jan 2024 17:32
Publisher:American Psychological Association
ISSN:0096-3445
OA Status:Green
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1037/xge0001256
PubMed ID:35696174
Project Information:
  • : FunderSwiss Confederation
  • : Grant ID
  • : Project Title
  • : FunderGerman Academic Exchange Service
  • : Grant ID
  • : Project Title
  • Content: Accepted Version
  • Language: English