Forget about the future: effects of thought suppression on memory for imaginary emotional episodes

Cogn Emot. 2018 Feb;32(1):200-206. doi: 10.1080/02699931.2016.1276049. Epub 2017 Jan 9.


Whether intentional suppression of an unpleasant or unwanted memory reduces the ability to recall that memory subsequently is a contested issue in contemporary memory research. Building on findings that similar processes are recruited when individuals remember the past and imagine the future, we measured the effects of thought suppression on memory for imagined future scenarios. Thought suppression reduced the ability to recall emotionally negative scenarios, but not those that were emotionally positive. This finding suggests that intentionally avoiding thoughts about emotionally negative episodes may inhibit representations of those memories, progressively reducing their availability to recall.

Keywords: Memory; emotion; forgetting; imagined future events; think/no-think.

MeSH terms

  • Emotions*
  • Humans
  • Imagination*
  • Inhibition, Psychological*
  • Memory*
  • Mental Recall*
  • Young Adult