Unintentional forgetting is beyond cognitive control
Maxcey, Ashleigh M.
Intentional forgetting refers to the attempt to marshal top-down control to purposefully forget, and has been demonstrated in the laboratory using directed forgetting paradigms. Here, we asked whether the mechanisms of top-down control can run in the opposite direction to prevent the forgetting of information; that is, can we actively resist unintentional forgetting? Recognition-induced forgetting is an unintentional forgetting effect in which accessing one memory leads to the forgetting of related memories. Just as intentional forgetting possesses intuitively appealing control over eliminating undesirable memories, resisting unintentional forgetting over desired memories would improve cognitive performance. We showed subjects a 9-min video to teach them about the recognition-induced forgetting paradigm and how recognition of certain objects unintentionally leads to forgetting of semantically related objects. After testing their comprehension of the video, we conducted a typical recognition-induced forgetting experiment and challenged the subjects to resist this form of unintentional forgetting. Despite their knowledge of the forgetting effect, and the challenge to subjects to resist the forgetting induced by the paradigm, recognition-induced forgetting persisted. These results show that knowledge of this unintentional forgetting phenomenon and the challenge to resist forgetting do not eliminate it, suggesting that it is cognitively impenetrable.