Ironic effects of attempting to remember




Hart, Christian L.
Randell, Joe A.
Griffith, James D.

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North American Journal of Psychology


In this study, ironic effects of intentional memory processes were explored. Ironic effects have previously been demonstrated in a number of mental control domains such as sleep onset, anxiety, and physical behavior. In this study, it was determined that ironic effects of mental control do occur when individuals apply greater cognitive effort toward the memorization of a word list. Specifically, individuals trying the hardest to remember information were later able to recall less information than those who were not trying as hard to encode and store information. It was further determined that the conditions that give rise to these ironic effects in the memory domain are associated with heightened cognitive workload. Finally, we demonstrated that while elevated intention to remember results in less than optimal recall, this heightened intention is still more effective than no intent. Thus it appears that ironic effects of attempting to remember vary with the level of mental control over mnemonic processing. A theoretical perspective linking ironic effects of mental control with the implementation of ineffective strategies is discussed.


Article originally published in North American Journal of Psychology, 9(2), 201. English. Published online 2007.
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Intentional memory processes, Cognitive workload, Mnemonic strategies


This is the published version of an article that is available at: Recommended citation: Hart, C. L., Randell, J. A., & Griffith, J. D. (2007). Ironic effects of attempting to remember. North American Journal of Psychology, 9(2), 201. This item has been deposited in accordance with publisher copyright and licensing terms and with the author’s permission.