Forgetting "murder" is not harder than forgetting "circle": listwise-directed forgetting of emotional words.

I. Wessel*, H.L.G.J. Merckelbach

*Corresponding author for this work

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The list-method directed forgetting (DF) paradigm has attracted the attention of clinical psychologists because it is widely believed that a retrieval inhibition mechanism underlies its effects. Thus, the idea is that people are capable of intentionally forgetting negative emotional material. On the other hand, there are reasons to believe that negative stimuli are relatively resistant to forgetting. The present experiment compared listwise DF of emotional and neutral words in healthy college students. A modified procedure (i.e., a simulated computer crash) showed a reliable DF-effect in that list I recall was larger under remember than forget instructions whereas the reverse was true for list 2 recall. Emotionality did not modulate the magnitude of this effect. Thus, negative emotional material is not resistant to forgetting. Although overall, the present findings are in line with a retrieval inhibition interpretation (i.e., decreased access to list I material), attentional focusing during list 2 learning may provide a sufficient explanation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)129-137
JournalCognition & Emotion
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2006

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