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Forgetting having denied: The "amnesic" consequences of denial

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Abstract

The concept of denial has its roots in psychoanalysis. Denial has been assumed to be effective in blocking unwanted memories. In two experiments, we report that denial has unique consequences for remembering. In our two experiments, participants viewed a video of a theft, and half of the participants had to deny seeing certain details in the video, whereas the other half had to tell the truth. One day later, all participants were given either a source-monitoring recognition or a recall task. In these tasks, they were instructed to indicate (1) whether they could remember talking about certain details and (2) whether they could recollect seeing those details in the video. In both experiments, we found that denial made participants forget that they had talked about these details, while leaving memory for the video itself unaffected. This denial-induced forgetting was evident for both the source-monitoring recognition and recall tests. Furthermore, when we asked participants after the experiment whether they could still not remember talking about these details, those who had to deny were most likely to report that they had forgotten talking about the details. In contrast to a widely held belief, we show that denial does not impair memory for the experienced stimuli, but that it has a unique ability to undermine memory for what has been talked about.

    Research areas

  • Journal Article, Forgetting, FALSE DENIALS, RECOGNITION, Memory, Deception, RECALL, Denial, Repression, MODEL, RETRIEVAL, CHILDREN, ABUSE, INTERVIEWS, SUPPRESSING UNWANTED MEMORIES
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Details

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)520-529
Number of pages10
JournalMemory & Cognition
Volume46
Issue number4
Early online date20 Dec 2017
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - May 2018