If you negate, you may forget: Negated repetitions impair memory compared with affirmative repetitions

Ruth Mayo*, Yaacov Schul, Meytal Rosenthal

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


One of the most robust laws of memory is that repeated activation improves memory. Our study shows that the nature of repetition matters. Specifically, although both negated repetition and affirmative repetition improve memory compared with no repetition, negated repetition hinders memory compared with affirmative repetition. After showing participants different entities, we asked them about features of these entities, leading to either "yes" or "no" responses. Our findings show that correctly negating an incorrect feature of an entity elicits an active forgetting effect compared with correctly affirming its true features. For example, after seeing someone drink a glass of white wine, answering "no" to "was it red wine?" may lead one to greater memory loss of the individual drinking wine at all compared with answering "yes" to "was it white wine?" We find this negation-induced forgetting effect in 4 experiments that differ in (a) the meaning given for the negation, (b) the type of stimuli (visual or verbal), and (c) the memory measure (recognition or free recall). We discuss possible underlying mechanisms and offer theoretical and applied implications of the negation-induced forgetting effect in relation to other known inhibition effects.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)1541-1552
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: General
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2014


  • False memory
  • Inhibition
  • Memory
  • Negation


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