Directed Forgetting in Associative Memory: Dissociating Item and Associative Impairment

Jonathon Whitlock, Judy Yi Chieh Chiu, Lili Sahakyan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We report three item-method directed forgetting (DF) studies to evaluate whether DF impairs primarily item memory, or whether it also impairs associative memory. The current studies used a modified associative recognition paradigm that allowed disentangling item impairment from associative impairment in DF. Participants studied scene-object pairings, followed by DF cues (item-method), and at test were presented with a previously studied scene along with three objects, one of which was studied with that scene (target), whereas the remaining two objects were studied with different scenes (lures). Experiment 1 used an associative encoding orienting task, and DF impairment was observed only when the forget targets were paired with forget lures within the test display; however, DF was eliminated when the forget targets were paired with remember lures, possibly due to a recall-to-reject strategy. Experiment 2 used an object-focused orienting task that downplayed the encoding of associative information. The results revealed the opposite of Experiment 1, with significant DF when the forget targets were paired with remember lures, and no DF when the lures and the target came from the same memory instruction. Experiment 3 used the same orienting task as Experiment 1, but testing used a sequential procedure, where item recognition was assessed first, followed by associative recognition test. Conditionalizing associative recognition on item recognition outcomes confirmed that DF impairment of associative memory can be obtained despite retained memory for forget-cued objects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)29-42
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Learning Memory and Cognition
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 29 2021


  • Associative recognition
  • Directed forgetting
  • Item-method

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language

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