Directed forgetting shares mechanisms with attentional withdrawal but not with stop-signal inhibition

Mem Cognit. 2010 Sep;38(6):797-808. doi: 10.3758/MC.38.6.797.


To explore the mechanisms underlying the ability to intentionally forget, the present study combined an item-method directed forgetting paradigm with tasks that measure stop-signal inhibition (Experiments 1 and 2) and inhibition of return (IOR; Experiment 2). Following each study-phase instruction to remember (R) or forget (F), a target was presented centrally (Experiment 1) or to the left or right in the visual periphery (Experiment 2); the target required a speeded response that was sometimes countermanded by a central stop signal. Although stop-signal reaction times were unaffected by the preceding memory instruction (or relationship with word-target location), F instructions improved stopping and delayed responses. Replicating previous findings in the literature, significant IOR was observed following F instructions but not following R instructions (Experiment 2). These findings suggest that intentional forgetting is an active cognitive process that more likely engages attentional mechanisms related to orienting than those related to stop-signal inhibition.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Attention
  • Color Perception*
  • Female
  • Fixation, Ocular
  • Humans
  • Inhibition, Psychological*
  • Intention*
  • Male
  • Mental Recall*
  • Orientation
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual
  • Reaction Time
  • Reading*
  • Recognition, Psychology
  • Semantics*
  • Verbal Learning*