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Memory suppression and its deficiency in psychological disorders: A focused meta-analysis

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Stramaccia,  Davide
Max Planck Research Group Adaptive Memory, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;

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

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Stramaccia_2019.pdf
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Citation

Stramaccia, D., Rischer, K. M., Fawcett, J. M., & Benoit, R. G. (2019). Memory suppression and its deficiency in psychological disorders: A focused meta-analysis. PsyArXiv. doi:10.31234/osf.io/5wynm.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0004-EFA0-A
Abstract
It is hotly debated whether suppressing the retrieval of unwanted memories constitutes a beneficial mechanism that causes forgetting. Here, we scrutinize the evidence for such suppression-induced forgetting (SIF) and examine whether it is deficient in psychological disorders characterized by intrusive thoughts. Specifically, we performed a focused meta-analysis of studies that have used the Think/No-Think procedure to test SIF in individuals either affected by psychological disorders or exhibiting high scores on related traits. First, our analysis of the control samples (N = 534) indicated that avoiding retrieval indeed leads to reliable forgetting in healthy participants. Overall, the effect size was moderate to small (SMCC = 0.31, 95% CI [0.16, 0.45]) and remained significant after attempting to account for publication bias. However, moderator analyses revealed that this effect varied according to the exact mechanism that participants were instructed to engage, with the greatest effect size observed for direct retrieval suppression (SMCC = 0.63, 95% CI [0.36, 0.90]). Second, we found no evidence for SIF in the clinical/sub-clinical samples (N = 534, SMCC = 0.07, 95% CI [- 0.13, 0.28]). Critically, SIF in these samples was significantly smaller than in the respective control samples (SMD = 0.26 (95% CI [0.06, 0.47]). This deficiency was particularly pronounced when participants were instructed to apply direct retrieval suppression mechanism. These results suggest that intact suppression-induced forgetting is a hallmark of psychological well-being, and that inducing more specific suppression mechanisms fosters voluntary forgetting.