Forgetting unwanted memories: Directed forgetting and thought suppression methods

E.G. Geraerts*, R.J. McNally

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Experimental psychopathologists have tested hypotheses regarding mechanisms that ought to be operative if victims possess skills for forgetting material related to trauma. In this article, we review research on directed forgetting and thought suppression paradigms, concentrating on laboratory studies involving attempts by individuals reporting trauma histories to forget emotionally negative material. Most studies have shown that trauma survivors, especially those with post-traumatic stress disorder, are characterized by a breakdown in the ability to forget disturbing material. Studies on individuals reporting repressed or recovered memories of trauma have not confirmed predictions regarding heightened forgetting skills for trauma-related words. However, recent research on suppressing disturbing autobiographical memories suggests that people who report spontaneously recalling childhood abuse outside of psychotherapy may, indeed, possess skills for not thinking about disturbing material.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)614-622
JournalActa Psychologica
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2008

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