DOI: 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2019.00269

Acta Psychologica Sinica (心理学报) 2019/51:3 PP.269-279

The effect of emotion on directed forgetting for continuous events

Forgetting is an adaptive process that can limit the interferences from irrelevant distractors and update valuable information. With regard to negative events, intentional forgetting can effectively help us to recover from trauma. The research on the intentional forgetting of emotional information usually adopts the directed forgetting paradigm. The better memory performance of R items relative to F items is referred to as the typically directed forgetting effect. Although emotional information is thought to be easier to remember than neutral information because of the attentional capture and elaborative process, whether emotional information is more resistant to forgetting is obscured. Most studies on emotional directed forgetting used various discrete items, such as words and pictures, and few addressed continuous events that are actually common in our episodic memory. Directed forgetting is not an all-or-nothing phenomenon because specific and general information appears to be forgotten at different rates. Therefore, this study aims to investigate the influence of emotions on the directed forgetting effect of continuous events. This study also explores the differences in forgetting rates between general/gist memory and specific memory.
In the present study, we adopted the event directed paradigm that embeds memory instructions into continuous videos. In experiment 1, 36 participants were equally divided into two groups:one group watched a neutral video, and the other group watched a negative one. Each video contained nine R segments and nine F segments that were surrounded by green and purple borders. The colored borders acted as memory instructions. The participants were asked to remember the video segments when the border was green and to forget the video segments when the border was purple. The test phase involved free recall and recognition. The participants were requested to recall all information about the video regardless of the classification of the memory instruction (R or F segments). Then, the participants were asked to identify the old pictures among the distractors. The old pictures were taken from the studied videos, and the distractors were slightly similar to the old pictures. The participants' responses were classified as general/gist memory and specific memory on the basis of previous studies. In experiment 2, we disrupted the play order of segments to further explore the influence of continuity on the directed forgetting effect.
The results of experiment 1 showed that the directed forgetting effect was lower in the negative video than in the neutral video. In addition, the participants demonstrated good memory for the general/gist information of the negative video in free recall. In the recognition phase, no directed forgetting effect was observed for specific memory in the negative video. The result indicated that emotions impaired or eliminated directed forgetting for continuous events. However, the performance of the gist-only memory for the R and F segments was not significant in the neutral and negative videos. Therefore, we speculated that the sequential play of segments might have led to the possibility of participants correctly guessing the general gist of the content. Therefore, we disrupted the order of segments in experiment 2, and the results showed a typically directed forgetting effect for gist-only memory.
In conclusion, directed forgetting could appear in continuous events. However, emotions impair the directed forgetting effect for a specific memory. For gist-only memory, the directed forgetting effect is affected by the continuity of events.

Key words:emotion,continuous event,directed forgetting,general/gist memory,specific memory

ReleaseDate:2019-03-01 06:48:08

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