Imagining another context during encoding offsets context-dependent forgetting

E. J. Masicampo, Lili Sahakyan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We tested whether imagining another context during encoding would offset context-dependent forgetting. All participants studied a list of words in Context A. Participants who remained in Context A during the test recalled more than participants who were tested in another context (Context B), demonstrating the standard context-dependent forgetting effect (e.g., Smith & Vela, 2001). Importantly, some participants imagined another mental context during encoding. Some of these participants imagined Context B during encoding, and when they were later tested in Context B or even in a completely new Context C, they did not show forgetting, confirming our predictions. Other participants imagined a new context during encoding simply by transforming the current context (i.e., by imagining that it was snowing in the room), and this likewise counteracted context-dependent forgetting. These data suggest a moderator of contextdependent forgetting. When the context surrounding a memory is largely mentally generated, contextdependent forgetting is eliminated.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1772-1777
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Learning Memory and Cognition
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 1 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Environmental effects
  • Forgetting
  • Memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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