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Forgetting having denied: The "amnesic" consequences of denial

Otgaar, H., Romeo, T., Ramakers, N. & Howe, M. L. (2017). Forgetting having denied: The "amnesic" consequences of denial. Memory and Cognition, 46(4), pp. 520-529. doi: 10.3758/s13421-017-0781-5


The concept of denial has its roots in psychoanalysis. Denial has been assumed to be effective in blocking unwanted memories. In two experiments, we report that denial has unique consequences for remembering. In two experiments, participants viewed a video of a theft and half of the participants had to deny seeing certain details in the video whereas the other half had to tell the truth. One day later, all participants were given a source monitoring recognition or recall task. In these tasks, they were instructed to indicate (1) whether they could remember talking about certain details and (2) whether they could recollect seeing those details in the video. In both experiments, we found that denial made participants forget that they talked about these details while leaving memory for the video unaffected. This denial-induced forgetting was evident for both the source monitoring recognition and recall tests. Furthermore, when we asked participants after the experiment whether they could still not remember talking about these details, participants who had to deny were most likely to report that they forgot this. In contrast to a widely held belief, we show that denial does not impair memory for the experienced stimuli, but that it has a unique ability to undermine memory for what was talked about.

Publication Type: Article
Publisher Keywords: Denial, Memory, Forgetting, Repression, Deception
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Psychology
SWORD Depositor:
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