Metacognition influences item-method directed forgetting

Nathaniel L. Foster, Lili Sahakyan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In 4 experiments, we examined whether metacognitive beliefs about item memorability influence item-method directed forgetting. In Experiment 1, participants studied loud and quiet items, which were subsequently cued as to-be-remembered (TBR) or to-be-forgotten (TBF). Typically, the volume of stimuli does not influence recall, although loud items are judged as more memorable than quiet items (Rhodes & Castel, 2009). In contrast, we found a recall advantage for loud items in directed forgetting, although this was observed for TBR items but not TBF items. The loud item advantage disappeared in Experiment 2, when we eliminated all TBF trials and instead inserted additional trials during which participants could engage in extra rehearsal of earlier presented items. In Experiments 3 and 4, a recall advantage for loud items was observed again when items were assigned a mixture of positive and negative values, but it did not emerge when items were assigned graded positive values. Overall, the results showed that the recall advantage for loud items emerges only in response to the need to forget some items. We propose 2 mechanisms to account for these results-either participants select to rehearse loud items as a controlled strategy that allows them to forget some items, or they have an unconscious preference for loud items that emerges only in response to the need to forget.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1309-1324
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Learning Memory and Cognition
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Control processes
  • Directed forgetting
  • Metacognition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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