The Long-Term Effect of Low Recognition of To-Be-Forgotten Items Requires an Intention to Forget in Conjunction with a Means of Doing So



In the present paper, we reviewed the studies relevant to the issue of intentional forgetting and assumed that it would be reasonable to examine whether the intention to forget itself decreases the probability to retrieve the to-be-forgotten stimulus or it should be combined with forgetting-evoking means. We reported the empirical study intended to verify their independence or interdependence. 20 Russian — made up language word pairs were exposed to participants (N = 71) three times. They then viewed each Russian word from a pair once, with randomized instructions “Forget”, “Remember”, “Repeat”, “Forget by generating associations to the Russian word” or a short cognitive task. Self-reports on the mnemonic strategies were collected. Recognition tests were administered two times — four hours and two months (N = 32) later. The probability to succeed by chance was 1 to 3. The main findings consisted of the fact that at two months delay the made-up words in the “Forget” and the “Remember” conditions were recognized the best, the words that were not processed in the context of any conscious mnemonic goals (“Repeat” and “Task”) were recognized worse, and the words in the “Forget by generating associations to the Russian word” condition were recognized the worst. This result brings us to the conclusion that the intention to achieve any goal with mnemonic content itself protects the material from forgetting at long time intervals. In contrast, the conjunction of mnemonic goal with congruent means might form a psychological tool that makes possible to keep the initial intention effective.

General Information

Keywords: intentional forgetting, mnemonic action, mnemonic goal, forgetting-evoking means, recognition

Journal rubric: Empirical and Experimental Research

Article type: scientific article


For citation: Gofman A.A., Nurkova V.V. The Long-Term Effect of Low Recognition of To-Be-Forgotten Items Requires an Intention to Forget in Conjunction with a Means of Doing So. Vestnik of Saint Petersburg University. Psychology, 2019. Vol. 9, no. 1, pp. 57–76. DOI: 10.21638/spbu16.2019.105. (In Russ., аbstr. in Engl.)


Bjork R. A., LaBerge D., Legrand R. The modification of short-term memory through instructions to forget. Psychonomic Science, 1968, vol. 10, no. 2, pp. 55–56.

Information About the Authors

Alena A. Gofman, PhD Student, Lomonosov Moscow State University, Moscow, Russia, e-mail:

Veronika V. Nurkova, Doctor of Psychology, Associate Professor, Department of Psychology, M. V. Lomonosov Moscow State University, Leading researcher at the School of Anthropology of the Future, Institute of Social Sciences of the Russian National Economy and Public Administration under the President of the Russian Federation (RANEPA), Associate Professor of the Faculty of the Effective Academy of Psychology, Moscow State University of Psychology and Education, Moscow, Russia, ORCID:, e-mail:



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