List-method directed forgetting in cognitive and clinical research: A theoretical and methodological review

Lili Sahakyan, Peter F. Delaney, Nathaniel L. Foster, Branden Abushanab

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


The primary purpose of this chapter is to provide an up-to-date review of the twenty-first century research and theory on list-method directed forgetting (DF) and related phenomena like the context-change effect. Many researchers have assumed that DF is diagnostic of inhibition, but we argue for an alternative, noninhibitory account and suggest reinterpretation of earlier findings. We first describe what DF is and the state of the art with regard to measuring the effect. Then, we review recent evidence that brings DF into the family of effects that can be explained by global memory models. The process-based theory we advocate is that the DF impairment arises from mental context change and that the DF benefits emerge mainly but perhaps not exclusively from changes in encoding strategy. We review evidence (some new to this paper) that strongly suggests that DF arises from the engagement of controlled forgetting strategies that are independent of whether people believed the forget cue or not. Then we describe the vast body of literature supporting that forgetting strategies result in contextual change effects, as well as point out some inconsistencies in the DF literature that need to be addressed in future research. Next, we provide evidence-again, some of it new to this chapter-that the reason people show better memory after a forget cue is that they change encoding strategies. In addition to reviewing. the basic research with healthy population, we reinterpret the evidence from the literature on certain clinical populations, providing a critique of the work done to date and outlining ways of improving the methodology for the study of DF in special populations. We conclude with a critical discussion of alternative approaches to understanding DF.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationPsychology of Learning and Motivation - Advances in Research and Theory
PublisherAcademic Press Inc.
Number of pages59
StatePublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes

Publication series

NamePsychology of Learning and Motivation - Advances in Research and Theory
ISSN (Print)0079-7421


  • Benefit
  • Context-change paradigm
  • Cost
  • Cue
  • Directed forgetting
  • Diversion paradigm
  • Item-method
  • List-method
  • Retrieval inhibition account
  • Selective rehearsal account

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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