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Weak evidence for increased motivated forgetting of trauma-related words in dissociated or traumatized individuals in a directed forgetting experiment

Research output: Working paper

Motivated forgetting is the idea that people can block out, or forget, upsetting or traumatic memories, because there is a motivation to do so. DePrince et al. (2012) cited directed forgetting studies using trauma-related words as evidence for the theory of motivated forgetting of trauma. In the current article subjects used the list method directed forgetting paradigm with both trauma-related words and positive words. After one list of words was presented subjects were directed to forget the words previously learned, and they then received another list of words. Each list was a mix of positive and trauma-related words, and the lists were counterbalanced. Later, subjects recalled as many of the words they could, including the ones they were told to forget. Based on the theory that motivated forgetting would lead to recall deficits of trauma-related material, we created eight hypotheses. High dissociators, trauma-exposed, sexual trauma-exposed, and high dissociators with trauma-exposure participants were hypothesized to show enhanced forgetting of trauma words. Results indicated only one of seven hypotheses were supported: those higher on dissociation and trauma recalled fewer trauma-words in the to-be-forgotten condition, compared to those low on dissociation and trauma. These results provide weak support for differential motivated forgetting.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherSocial Science Research Network
Publication statusPublished - 17 Nov 2017
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ID: 18027174