Emotional and non-emotional memories are suppressible under direct suppression instructions

K. van Schie, E. Geraerts, M.C. Anderson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Research on retrieval suppression has produced varying results concerning whether negatively valenced memories are more or less suppressible than neutral memories. This variability may arise if, across studies, participants adopt different approaches to memory control. Cognitive and neurobiological research points to two mechanisms that achieve retrieval suppression: thought-substitution and direct suppression (Benoit & Anderson, 2012; Bergström, de Fockert, & Richardson-Klavehn, 2009). Using the Think/No-think paradigm, this study examined whether participants can inhibit neutral and negatively valenced memories, using a uniform direct suppression strategy. Importantly, when strategy was controlled, negative and neutral items were comparably inhibited. Participants reported high compliance with direct suppression instructions, and success at controlling awareness predicted forgetting. These findings provide the first evidence that direct suppression can impair negatively valenced events, and suggest that variability in forgetting negative memories in prior studies is unlikely to arise from difficulty using direct suppression to control emotionally negative experiences.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1122-1131
Number of pages10
JournalCognition & Emotion
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 7 Feb 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Memory control
  • direct suppression
  • think/no-think paradigm


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