Directed forgetting of visual symbols: evidence for nonverbal selective rehearsal

Mem Cognit. 2009 Dec;37(8):1059-68. doi: 10.3758/MC.37.8.1059.


Is selective rehearsal possible for nonverbal information? Two experiments addressed this question using the item method directed forgetting paradigm, where the advantage of remember items over forget items is ascribed to selective rehearsal favoring the remember items. In both experiments, difficult-to-name abstract symbols were presented for study, followed by a recognition test. Directed forgetting effects were evident for these symbols, regardless of whether they were or were not spontaneously named. Critically, a directed forgetting effect was observed for unnamed symbols even when the symbols were studied under verbal suppression to prevent verbal rehearsal. This pattern indicates that a form of nonverbal rehearsal can be used strategically (i.e., selectively) to enhance memory, even when verbal rehearsal is not possible.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Attention*
  • Discrimination, Psychological
  • Humans
  • Mental Recall*
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual*
  • Practice, Psychological*
  • Reaction Time
  • Retention, Psychology
  • Semantics
  • Verbal Learning