Memory & Cognition

, Volume 46, Issue 5, pp 787–795 | Cite as

No evidence for unethical amnesia for imagined actions: A failed replication and extension

  • Matthew L. Stanley
  • Brenda W. Yang
  • Felipe De Brigard


In a recent study, Kouchaki and Gino (2016) suggest that memory for unethical actions is impaired, regardless of whether such actions are real or imagined. However, as we argue in the current study, their claim that people develop “unethical amnesia” confuses two distinct and dissociable memory deficits: one affecting the phenomenology of remembering and another affecting memory accuracy. To further investigate whether unethical amnesia affects memory accuracy, we conducted three studies exploring unethical amnesia for imagined ethical violations. The first study (N = 228) attempts to directly replicate the only study from Kouchaki and Gino (2016) that includes a measure of memory accuracy. The second study (N = 232) attempts again to replicate these accuracy effects from Kouchaki and Gino (2016), while including several additional variables meant to potentially help in finding the effect. The third study (N = 228) is an attempted conceptual replication using the same paradigm as Kouchaki and Gino (2016), but with a new vignette describing a different moral violation. We did not find an unethical amnesia effect involving memory accuracy in any of our three studies. These results cast doubt upon the claim that memory accuracy is impaired for imagined unethical actions. Suggestions for further ways to study memory for moral and immoral actions are discussed.


Moral Unethical amnesia Memory Imagination Emotion 



This project was made possible through the support of a grant from the John Templeton Foundation to F.D.B. The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the John Templeton Foundation. This project was also supported by a research grant from the Duke Institute for Brain Science to F.D.B.

Compliance with ethical standards

Declaration of conflicting interests

The authors declared that they had no conflicts of interest with respect to their authorship or the publication of this article.


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Copyright information

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Matthew L. Stanley
    • 1
  • Brenda W. Yang
    • 1
  • Felipe De Brigard
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Psychology and Neuroscience, Center for Cognitive NeuroscienceDuke UniversityDurhamUSA
  2. 2.Department of Psychology and Neuroscience, Center for Cognitive Neuroscience, Department of Philosophy, Duke Institute for Brain SciencesDuke UniversityDurhamUSA

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