Retrieval intention modulates the effects of directed forgetting instructions on recollection

Xin Xiao, Heather D. Lucas, Ken A. Paller, Jin Hong Ding, Chun Yan Guo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


The neurocognitive basis of memory retrieval is often examined by investigating brain potential old/new effects, which are differences in brain activity between successfully remembered repeated stimuli and correctly rejected new stimuli in a recognition test. In this study, we combined analyses of old/new effects for words with an item-method directed-forgetting manipulation in order to isolate differences between the retrieval processes elicited by words that participants were initially instructed to commit to memory and those that participants were initially instructed to forget. We compared old/new effects elicited by to-be-forgotten (TBF) words with those elicited by to-be-remembered (TBR) words in both an explicitmemory test (a recognition test) and an implicit-memory test (a lexical-decision test). Behavioral results showed clear directed forgetting effects in the recognition test, but not in the lexical decision test. Mirroring the behavioral findings, analyses of brain potentials showed evidence of directed forgetting only in the recognition test. In this test, potentials from 450-650 ms (P600 old/new effects) were more positive for TBR relative to TBF words. By contrast, P600 effects evident during the lexical-decision test did not differ in magnitude between TBR and TBF items. When taken in the context of prior studies that have linked similar parietal old/new effects to the recollection of episodic information, these data suggest that directed-forgetting effects manifest primarily in greater episodic retrieval by TBR than TBF items, and that retrieval intention may be important for these directed-forgetting effects to occur.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere104701
JournalPloS one
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 20 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • General


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