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Selective voluntary forgetting in young and older adults

Aguirre, Carmen; Gomez-Ariza, Carlos J.; Bajo, Ma. Teresa; Andrés, Pilar; Mazzoni, Giuliana


Carmen Aguirre

Carlos J. Gomez-Ariza

Ma. Teresa Bajo

Pilar Andrés

Giuliana Mazzoni


Aging is thought to involve a decline in executive-control capacities, although evidence regarding this claim is not always clear. Thus, although studies exist that suggest impoverished inhibitory memory control in older adults relative to younger adults, experiments with the list-method direct forgetting procedure have mostly failed to show adult-age differences in voluntary forgetting. In the present study we aimed to further study this issue by comparing young-old and young adults’ performance with the selective directed forgetting (SDF) procedure, which we assumed to involve higher demands of executive control than the standard nonselective procedure. Thus, on the basis of previous studies showing that a critical factor in finding adult-age differences in executive-control tasks is the overall challenge posed by the tasks, we predicted less SDF in older adults than in younger adults. Supporting our hypothesis, across three experiments we show evidence of older adults’ impoverished capacity to voluntarily forget episodic memories, although only when the task requires selective forgetting. Ours join other findings to suggest that sensitiveness to detect adult-age differences in cognitive control may strongly depend on the executive-control demands imposed by tasks.


Aguirre, C., Gomez-Ariza, C. J., Bajo, M. T., Andrés, P., & Mazzoni, G. (2014). Selective voluntary forgetting in young and older adults. Psychology and Aging, 29(1), 128-139.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date 2014-03
Deposit Date Apr 28, 2015
Publicly Available Date Apr 28, 2015
Journal Psychology and aging
Print ISSN 0882-7974
Publisher American Psychological Association
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 29
Issue 1
Pages 128-139
Keywords Age differences, Forgetting, Cognitive control, Aging, Episodic memory
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information This article may not exactly replicate the final version published in the APA journal. It is not the copy of record.
Contract Date Apr 28, 2015


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©2014 American Psychological Association

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