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Journal Article

Priming, not inhibition, of related concepts during future imagining


Benoit,  Roland G.
Max Planck Research Group Adaptive Memory, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;

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Campbell, K. L., Benoit, R. G., & Schacter, D. L. (2017). Priming, not inhibition, of related concepts during future imagining. Memory, 25(9), 1235-1245. doi:10.1080/09658211.2017.1283420.

Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-002D-2945-3
Remembering the past and imagining the future both involve the retrieval of details stored in episodic memory and rely on the same core network of brain regions. Given these parallels, one might expect similar component processes to be involved in remembering and imagining. While a strong case can be made for the role of inhibition in memory retrieval, few studies have examined whether inhibition is also necessary for future imagining and results to-date have been mixed. In the current study, we test whether related concepts are inhibited during future imagining using a modified priming approach. Participants first generated a list of familiar places and for each place, the people they most strongly associate with it. A week later, participants imagined future events involving recombinations of people and places, immediately followed by a speeded response task in which participants made familiarity decisions about people’s names. Across two experiments, our results suggest that related concepts are not inhibited during future imagining, but rather are automatically primed. These results fit with recent work showing that autobiographically significant concepts (e.g., friends’ names) are more episodic than semantic in nature, automatically activating related details in memory and potentially fuelling the flexible simulation of future events.