Metamemory and Memory Discrepancies in Directed Forgetting of Emotional Information


  • Dicle Çapan
  • Simay Ikier


Directed Forgetting (DF) studies show that it is possible to exert cognitive control to intentionally forget information. The aim of the present study was to investigate how aware individuals are of the control they have over what they remember and forget when the information is emotional. Participants were presented with positive, negative and neutral photographs, and each photograph was followed by either a Remember or a Forget instruction. Then, for each photograph, participants provided Judgments of Learning (JOLs) by indicating their likelihood of recognizing that item on a subsequent test. In the recognition phase, participants were asked to indicate all old items, irrespective of instruction. Remember items had higher JOLs than Forget items for all item types, indicating that participants believe they can intentionally forget even emotional information—which is not the case based on the actual recognition results. DF effect, which was calculated by subtracting recognition for Forget items from Remember ones was only significant for neutral items. Emotional information disrupted cognitive control, eliminating the DF effect. Response times for JOLs showed that evaluation of emotional information, especially negatively emotional information takes longer, and thus is more difficult. For both Remember and Forget items, JOLs reflected sensitivity to emotionality of the items, with emotional items receiving higher JOLs than the neutral ones. Actual recognition confirmed better recognition for only negative items but not for positive ones. JOLs also reflected underestimation of actual recognition performance. Discrepancies in metacognitive judgments due to emotional valence as well as the reasons for underestimation are discussed.