Mechanisms Behind Directed Forgetting: Exploring the Selective Rehearsal and Attentional Inhibition Accounts Using the Double-Item Method Paradigm
In an item-method directed forgetting paradigm, participants are instructed to remember some items from the study list and forget others. On a subsequent memory test, participants demonstrate better memory for remember items than forget items. This difference in performance is referred to as the directed forgetting effect. Two major accounts have emerged to investigate the underlying mechanisms for this effect. The selective rehearsal account states that the elaborative rehearsal of remember items followed by the passive decay of forget items is the primary process of directed forgetting. The attentional inhibition account suggests that the directed forgetting effect arises from the inhibition of forget items, which allows for remember items to be further processed. The current thesis explored the extent to which both of these accounts may contribute to directed forgetting. We used a novel variant of the paradigm where we presented participants with unrelated word pairs: On pure trials, participants were instructed to remember or forget both words; on mixed trials, participants were instructed to remember one word but forget the other. In Experiment 1, we found evidence in support of a selective rehearsal process with no evidence for passive decay or active inhibition of forget items. In Experiment 2, we introduced a novel neutral condition, and replicated and supported our findings of Experiment 1. Our findings suggest that selective rehearsal is the primary account of directed forgetting but that it must be modified to account for the fact that selection of information to be rehearsed is flawed.