Task compliance predicts suppression-induced forgetting in a large sample.
Suppression-induced forgetting (SIF) refers to a memory impairment resulting from repeated attempts to stop the retrieval of unwanted memory associates. SIF has become established in the literature through a growing number of reports built upon the Think/No-Think (TNT) paradigm. Not all individuals and not all reported experiments yield reliable forgetting, however. Given the reliance on task instructions to motivate participants to suppress target memories, such inconsistencies in SIF may reasonably owe to differences in compliance or expectations as to whether they will again need to retrieve those items (on, say, a final test). We tested these possibilities on a large (N = 497) sample of TNT participants. In addition to successfully replicating SIF, we found that the magnitude of the effect was significantly and negatively correlated with participants' reported compliance during the No-Think trials. This pattern held true on both same- and independent-probe measures of forgetting, as well as when the analysis was conditionalized on initial learning. In contrast, test expectancy was not associated with SIF. Supporting previous intuition and more limited post-hoc examinations, this study provides robust evidence that a lack of compliance with No-Think instructions significantly compromises SIF. As such, it suggests that diminished effects in some studies may owe, at least in part, to non-compliance-a factor that should be carefully tracked and/or controlled. Motivated forgetting is possible, provided that one is sufficiently motivated and capable of following the task instructions.