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Emotion. 2008 Oct;8(5):643-52. doi: 10.1037/a0013441.

Directed forgetting of emotional words.

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Department of Psychology, University of California, Los Angeles 90095-1563, USA.


Emotional material may induce processing limitations affecting memory performance. In the present study, the authors investigated how the emotional content of words influences the degree to which participants can be directed to forget them. In Experiment 1, the authors found that negative-valence words were recalled better when participants were told to forget them than when they were told to remember them. This effect was only obtained when a study-list of negative words was presented after the cue to remember or forget the first list. The effect was correlated with negative mood as assessed by the PANAS. Similar results were obtained in Experiment 2, in which the induction of negative arousal by a mild stressor abolished the directed forgetting of words when the following study list was comprised of negative words. These results support the idea that directed forgetting relies on cognitive control processes that may be disrupted by negative emotion.

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