Remembering to Forget: The Amnesic Effect of Daydreaming

Department of Psychology, University of North Carolina,Greensboro, P.O. Box 26170, Greensboro, NC 27602-6170, USA.
Psychological Science (Impact Factor: 4.43). 07/2010; 21(7):1036-42. DOI: 10.1177/0956797610374739
Source: PubMed


Daydreaming mentally transports people to another place or time. Many daydreams are similar in content to the thoughts that people generate when they intentionally try to forget. Thus, thoughts like those generated during daydreaming can cause forgetting of previously encoded events. We conducted two experiments to test the hypothesis that daydreams that are more different from the current moment (e.g., in distance, time, or circumstance) will result in more forgetting than daydreams that are less different from the current moment, because they result in a greater contextual shift. Daydreaming was simulated in the laboratory via instructions to engage in a diversionary thought. Participants learned a list of words, were asked to think about autobiographical memories, and then learned a second list of words. They tended to forget more words from the first list when they thought about their parents' home than when they thought about their current home (Experiment 1). They also tended to forget more when they thought about an international vacation than when they thought about a domestic vacation (Experiment 2). These results support a context-change account of the amnesic effects of daydreaming.

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    • "One such characteristic is the degree to which the experience disrupts ongoing activities. While mind-wandering merely taps attentional resources and reduces performance on other tasks (Baird et al., 2013; Delaney, Sahakyan, Kelley, & Zimmerman, 2010; Takarangi et al., 2014), a flashback can be so disabling that pursuing another activity in parallel becomes impossible. Similarly, the intensity of negative affect is low in mind-wandering, but high to extreme in a flashback. "
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    ABSTRACT: In their paper, Takarangi, Strange, and Lindsay (2014) showed in two experiments that participants who had witnessed a shocking film frequently “mind-wandered without awareness” about the content of the film. More importantly, they equated this effect with the occurrence of traumatic intrusions. In this commentary, we argue that the authors adhered to conceptually ambiguous terms, and thereby unintentionally contribute to an already existing conceptual blur in the trauma-memory field. We postulate that clear definitions are urgently needed for phenomena such as intrusions, flashbacks, and mind-wandering, when using them in the context of trauma memory. Furthermore, our proposal is that these phenomena can fall under a spectrum of different involuntary memory instances. We propose that by adopting stricter definitions and viewing them as separate, but interrelated phenomena, different lines of trauma-memory research can be reconciled, which would considerably advance the field.
    Consciousness and Cognition 05/2015; 33. DOI:10.1016/j.concog.2014.11.012 · 2.31 Impact Factor
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    • "Critically, the context at retrieval mismatches the List 1 encoding context, which negatively affects recall of List 1. Support for this account comes from the finding that when participants are instructed to mentally reinstate the List 1 encoding context, memory improves (Sahakyan and Kelley, 2002). Furthermore, interventions that potentially change the internal context have similar effects as the forget cue, such as imagining being invisible, mentally walking through your parents’ house (Sahakyan and Kelley, 2002), daydreaming (Delaney et al., 2010), chatting with the experimenter or wiping a computer screen (Mulji and Bodner, 2010). "
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    ABSTRACT: There has been a resurgence of interest in defining the circumstances leading to memory modifications. Studies have shown that reactivating a supposedly stable memory re-introduces a time-limited window of plasticity during which presentation of interfering material can cause long-term memory changes. The present study asks whether such memory changes can be prevented if people are instructed to forget the memory before the new material is encoded. Participants learned a set of objects. After 48 h, they were reminded of this learning episode, and learned another set of objects. Again 48 h later, they recalled the first (Exp. 1) or second set (Exp. 3). As shown previously, a reminder caused intrusions from the second set into recall of the first set. Here I show that the instruction to forget the first set significantly diminished intrusions from the second set, especially when the instruction was given before the new set was encoded in the second session. Experiment 2 suggests that the reduced intrusions were due to list segregation/isolation, rather than temporarily inhibited access to Set 1. Taken together, the study shows that the attempt to forget a memory can immunize it such that the presentation of interfering material has limited effects, and the memory can be recalled unchanged in the future. This is important when veridical memory is essential, such as in eyewitness testimonies.
    Frontiers in Psychology 02/2013; 4:32. DOI:10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00032 · 2.80 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Costs and benefits of directed forgetting are observed when a between-list instruction to forget List 1 impairs List 1 recall while enhancing List 2 recall. These effects are often ascribed to intentional inhibition of List 1. Contrary to this inhibition account, we found that a forget instruction did not produce costs unless an explicit instruction to concentrate on List 2 was used (Experiment 1). Alternatively, costs may be ascribed to a shift in mental context between encoding and retrieval. Consistent with this mental context-change account, an unexpected task (wiping the computer screen and one's hands) produced costs comparable to a forget instruction, as did as a brief chat between lists (Experiment 2). A number-search task between lists produced neither costs nor benefits (Experiment 3), suggesting that mere distraction is insufficient for inducing mental context change. Our findings support the claim that mental context change underlies both intentional and unintentional forgetting.
    Memory 10/2010; 18(7):763-73. DOI:10.1080/09658211.2010.510475 · 2.09 Impact Factor
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Lili Sahakyan