Reducing negative emotional memories by retroactive interference

Cody J. Hensley, Hajime Otani, Abby R. Knoll

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Because negative emotional memories are often disruptive, we conducted two experiments to reduce these memories by using a retroactive interference (RI) paradigm. In both experiments, participants were presented with highly negative pictures (List 1) followed by highly negative, moderately negative, or neutral pictures (List 2) or a rest period. Then, following a filler task, participants took a surprise free recall test, recalling pictures from List 1 in Experiment 1 and from both List 1 and List 2 in Experiment 2. In both experiments, recall of List 1 was reduced by List 2, indicating that RI was present. Furthermore, in Experiment 1, RI was similar between moderately negative and highly negative List 2 whereas in Experiment 2, RI was greater for highly negative List 2 than moderately negative List 2. These results showed that RI can be used to reduce negative emotional memories by making these memories inaccessible.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)801-815
Number of pages15
JournalCognition and Emotion
Issue number4
StatePublished - May 19 2019


  • Emotion and memory
  • forgetting
  • retroactive interference


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