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Positive moods can eliminate intentional forgetting

Abstract

People can intentionally forget previously studied information if, after study, a forget cue and new material to be encoded are provided. We examined how the affective state people experience during encoding of the new material modulates such directed forgetting. Positive, negative, and neutral moods were induced immediately before the new material was studied. The study materials themselves were neutral. The results showed sustained forgetting of the previously studied materials in negative moods but an elimination of the forgetting in positive moods. These findings agree with the effects of mood found for other cognitive tasks. They suggest that in positive moods, associative networks are activated, which leads to reactivation of List-1 items, and thus to elimination of the directed forgetting effects. These results contrast with recent reports on the role of emotional content in directed forgetting, which have described equivalent effects for neutral and emotional materials. Together, our findings suggest that directed forgetting is mainly affected by mood, and hardly at all by emotional content.

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Correspondence to Karl-Heinz Bäuml.

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The research reported here was supported by a grant from the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft to K.-H.B. (Ba 1382/7-1).

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Bäuml, KH., Kuhbandner, C. Positive moods can eliminate intentional forgetting. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review 16, 93–98 (2009). https://doi.org/10.3758/PBR.16.1.93

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.3758/PBR.16.1.93

Keywords

  • Affective State
  • Negative Mood
  • False Memory
  • Positive Mood
  • Emotional Content