ISSN 0439-755X
CN 11-1911/B

Acta Psychologica Sinica ›› 2014, Vol. 46 ›› Issue (2): 156-164.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2014.00156

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Self-Reference Influence the Directed Forgetting of Emotional Memory

YANG Wenjing;LIU Peiduo;CUI Qian;HAO Xin;Xiao Xiao;ZHANG Qinglin   

  1. (1 Key laboratory of Cognition and Personality, Ministry of Education, Southwest University; 2 Faculty of Psychology, Southwest University, Chongqing 400715, China)
  • Received:2012-10-09 Published:2014-02-25 Online:2014-02-25
  • Contact: ZHANG Qinglin


Intentional forgetting of emotional memories refers to the phenomenon that people attempt to actively put the unwanted memories out of awareness. The item method directed forgetting is often used to explore the intentional forgetting of emotional memory. Most of the directed forgetting studies suggest that both the selective encoding and retrieval inhibitory contribute to the directed forgetting effect. Though the emotional material can enhance the memory, people can use the inhibitory mechanism to forget the emotional memory. Self-reference effect is an important effect of memory. It seems that the self is a well-developed construct that promotes both elaboration and organization of encoded information. Although forgetting is an important process of memory, most studies concentrated on the encoding of the memory when it comes to the self reference effect. As we know, few studies focused on whether self-reference can influence the directed forgetting. Most studies suggest that people can intentionally forget the emotional memories. If these materials are enhanced by emotion and self-reference, can people forget them? As the best knowledge of us, no study concentrated on this problem up to now. But this problem is common in our daily life. Thirty eight undergraduates or master students participated in the Experiment 1. Two hundred and forty four trait adjective words were included in the materials which were randomly distributed to two lists (one is the study list and the other is the distracter in the recognition test). The experiment was divided into three separate parts. In the study period, participants should finish two tasks. Firstly, subjects were first asked to judge whether the adjective was proper to describe the self or luxun, and then they were instructed to remember or forget the front word. After carrying out a distraction task, there was a recognition task in which participants should discriminate whether the word was old or new. The same experimental procedure was applied in the experiment 2. The difference was that a recalling test replaced the recognition after the distraction task. A three-factor analysis of variance (ANONA) was performed after the experiment with the valence of the materials, the type of the reference and the type of the memory instruction as within-subjects variables. The results of experiment 1 showed that there was a main effect of memory instruction. However, the main effect of the type of the reference and the interaction effect of the valence, the type of the reference and the memory instruction were not significant. However, the results of the experiment 2 showed an interaction within the valence, the type of the memory instruction and the type of the reference. This discussion focused on the self-enhancement effect. The results suggest that self-reference can influence the directed forgetting of the emotional memory. Self-reference can enhance the discrimination of the materials. Then, participants can fully use the inhibition mechanism to inhibit the TBF items and more cognitive resources can be used to encode the TBR items. The results also suggest self-reference produce different influences on different emotional memories and the self-enhancement motivation play an important role in these influences. In order to have a positive self-image, participants try to forget the negative self-reference items, and keep the positive self-reference items.

Key words: directed forgetting, emotional memory, self-reference effect, self-enhancement, inhibition control