Directed forgetting is a phenomenon in which an individual is instructed to intentionally forget certain information. This can be done by being told to forget specific items on a list, or by being presented with a list of words and then being told to forget certain words while later trying to recall the words from the list.
Directed forgetting is often studied using the “list method” paradigm, where participants are presented with a list of words and then later asked to recall as many words as they can remember. In directed forgetting studies, participants are usually divided into two groups: the “forget” group and the “remember” group. The forget group is instructed to forget certain words on the list, while the remember group is instructed to remember all the words.
The directed forgetting effect refers to the phenomenon that when people are instructed to forget certain information, they tend to remember less of that information than people who were instructed to remember the same information. This effect is thought to be caused by the way in which attention and memory are interconnected. When an individual is instructed to forget certain information, their attention is directed away from that information, which makes it more difficult to remember later.
There are several theories about the mechanism of directed forgetting, one of which is called the inhibition theory which suggests that directed forgetting works by inhibiting the rehearsal or rehearsal of the information to be forgotten and in turn reduces the strength of the memory trace. Another theory is called the attentional deployment theory which suggests that directed forgetting works by redirecting attention away from the information to be forgotten, which reduces the amount of processing that the information receives.
Directed forgetting is a useful tool in psychological research as it allows scientists to study the relationship between attention and memory, and can also have practical applications, such as in the field of memory rehabilitation. For example, directed forgetting can be used to help individuals suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to forget traumatic memories, which can help to reduce symptoms of the disorder.
It is important to note that directed forgetting is different from repression, which is an unconscious process, while directed forgetting is a conscious one. Also, directed forgetting is a laboratory-based phenomenon, while repression is a real-life one.