Intentional forgetting: Note-taking as a naturalistic example

Abstract

In the present study, we examined whether note-taking as a memory aid may provide a naturalistic example of intentional forgetting. In the first experiment, participants played Concentration, a memory card game in which the identity and location of pairs of cards need to be remembered. Before the game started, half of the participants were allowed to study the cards, and the other half made notes that were then unexpectedly taken away. No significant differences emerged between the two groups for remembering identity information, but the study group remembered significantly more location information than did the note-taking group. In a second experiment, we examined whether note-takers would show signs of proactive interference while playing Concentration repeatedly. The results indicated that they did not. The findings suggest that participants adopted an intentional-forgetting strategy when using notes to store certain types of information.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    The one participant who did not include explicit identity information coded card pairs by listing the coordinates of matching cards together.

  2. 2.

    Responses of participants in the recognition groups could be thought of in terms of making a yes/no decision, and therefore their ability to discriminate between cards from the two different decks could be measured by using signal detection theory. Values of d' were calculated for the note-takers (M = 2.86, SD = 1.17) and for those in the study group (M = 3.10, SD = 1.10) by comparing the proportions of hits and false alarms. A t test indicated no significant difference between the two groups in their ability to discriminate, t(42) = 0.71, p = .48.

  3. 3.

    Pearson correlations were also conducted in order to detect possible relationships between memory performance and the time taken to make notes or study the cards. No significant relationships were found between memory for identity (r = .12, n.s.) or location information (r = –.13, n.s.) for participants in the two note-taking groups. Study time was also unrelated to remembering identity information for participants in the control groups (r = .10, n.s.); however, these groups did remember more location information, the longer that they had to study the cards (r = .33, p < .05). Thus, the length of exposure to the cards previous to the memory test appears to have influenced only the control groups’ memory performance, and only for location information.

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Author note

We are grateful to Jonathan Eskritt for providing the program for the computer simulation that was described in Experiment 2. Thank you, little brother! The data from the first experiment were collected as part of the honors thesis of the second author.

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Correspondence to Michelle Eskritt.

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Eskritt, M., Ma, S. Intentional forgetting: Note-taking as a naturalistic example. Mem Cogn 42, 237–246 (2014). https://doi.org/10.3758/s13421-013-0362-1

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Keywords

  • Directed forgetting
  • Memory
  • Mnemonics