Investigating the mediating effect of working memory on intentional forgetting in dysphoria


Our aim was to determine if deficits in intentional forgetting that are associated with depression and dysphoria (subclinical depression) could be explained, at least in part, by variations in working memory function. Sixty dysphoric and 61 non-dysphoric participants completed a modified version of the think/no-think (TNT) task and a measure of complex working memory (the operation span task). The TNT task involved participants learning a series of emotional cue–target word pairs, before being presented with a subset of the cues and asked to either recall the associated target (think) or to prevent it from coming to mind (no think) by thinking about a substitute target word. Participants were subsequently asked to recall the targets to all cues (regardless of previous recall instructions). As expected, after controlling for anxiety, we found that dysphoric individuals exhibited impaired forgetting relative to the non-dysphoric participants. Also as expected, we found that superior working memory function was associated with more successful forgetting. Critically, in the dysphoric group, we found that working memory mediated the effect of depression on intentional forgetting. That is, depression influenced forgetting indirectly via its effect on working memory. However, under conditions of repeated suppression, there was also a direct effect of depression on forgetting. These findings represent an important development in the understanding of impaired forgetting in depression and also suggest that working memory training might be a viable intervention for improving the ability of depressed individuals to prevent unwanted memories from coming to mind.

Publication DOI:
Divisions: College of Health & Life Sciences > School of Psychology
College of Health & Life Sciences > Clinical and Systems Neuroscience
College of Health & Life Sciences
Additional Information: © The Author(s) 2019. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.
Uncontrolled Keywords: Experimental and Cognitive Psychology,Developmental and Educational Psychology,Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
Full Text Link:
Related URLs: https://link.sp ... 426-019-01225-y (Publisher URL)
http://www.scop ... tnerID=8YFLogxK (Scopus URL)
PURE Output Type: Article
Published Date: 2019-07-19
Published Online Date: 2019-07-19
Accepted Date: 2019-07-15
Authors: Ridout, Nathan (ORCID Profile 0000-0002-7111-2996)
Noreen, Saima
Cooke, Richard



Version: Published Version

License: Creative Commons Attribution

| Preview

Export / Share Citation


Additional statistics for this record