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Naturally occurring instances of memory suppression seem to be ones in which conflict arises between a memory and present motivations. For example, being reminded of an embarrassing past event may introduce feelings that are not desired or appropriate if you are hosting company. The emotions connected to the negative memory and the desired emotions expected of a host are in conflict, and so the memory in question may be suppressed to preserve your desire to be a congenial host. While research has served to characterize various aspects of suppression, the methodologies used by such studies rely on explicit instruction from the experimenter. To bring the study of suppression closer to how it occurs naturally, this research seeks to minimize instruction and induce suppression through instances of conflict. Participants learned a series of Name-Word pairs (e.g. MARTHA--WATCH) and imagined a distinct person attached to each Name. Audio recordings that corresponded to each person were listened to, providing a positive or negative association to each Name/person. Participants then imagined working on an important task with a subset of these individuals, repeatedly. This was followed by a surprise memory test of the Name-Word pairs. It was hypothesized that working with a person with a negatively associated Name would encourage suppression. Evidence of suppression would be indicated by reduced memory performance on the surprise memory test. There was no significant difference between the recall of positively or negatively associated Name-Word pairs. Still, reports from participants will inform the continued development of a method for the study of suppression as a result of conflict.
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Murphy, Sean P., "Everyday Ghosts: An Examination of Memory in Social Interactions" (2018). Senior Projects Spring 2018. 243.