A new research study looks at the possibility of deliberately forgetting a story from one’s past. Researchers had participants remember a short instance inspired by a keyword, pair another word with it, and then repeat this procedure for 23 more word pairs (read word, remember something associated with that word, then pair it with another word).
Next came the “think / no think” training phase – the students were presented with 16 of the word pairs from earlier, and for some of them they had to describe once again the relevant autobiographical memory in detail for 60 seconds; for others they had to deliberately not think of the relevant memory for four seconds. This procedure was repeated 16 times for each word pair and memory (the remaining 8 pairs and their memories were not part of this process and acted as baseline material).
Memories that were deliberately supressed were less detailed than the baseline memories. So next time you see “online multiplayer” try NOT to think about swearing teenagers for four seconds.