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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    • "Materials Delaney et al . ( 2010 )"
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    ABSTRACT: The diversion paradigm was created in the context of explaining the effect of the instruction to forget some recently encoded material in the list-method of the directed forgetting paradigm. The current study of healthy older adults employed the diversion paradigm with two main goals: to determine whether thinking about an autobiographical memory interferes with the recall of recently encoded information and to explore whether the degree of forgetting depends on the temporal distance created by the diversionary thought. Ninety non-institutionalized Portuguese older adults (47 females and 43 males), aged 65-69 years, with education levels of between 3 and 6 years participated in this study. The exclusion criteria were as follows: presence of depressive symptomatology (assessed with the Geriatric Depression Scale-30) and global cognitive deterioration (assessed with the Mini-Mental State Examination). Concerning the diversion paradigm, one group was instructed to think about an autobiographical event (remembering one's childhood home or the last party that one had attended) after studying one word list (List 1) and before viewing the second word list (List 2). After a brief distraction task, the participant had to recall the words from both of the studied lists. In the control group, the procedure was the same, but the diversionary thought was substituted by a speed reading task. The obtained results showed the amnesic effect of diversionary thought but did not show a greater degree of forgetting when the autobiographical events in the diversionary thoughts were temporally more distant. Considering the practical implications of these results, this study alerts us to the importance of promoting strategies that enable older adults to better remember important information and effectively forget irrelevant information.
    Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience 11/2015; 7:189. DOI:10.3389/fnagi.2015.00189 · 4.00 Impact Factor
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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.
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