How evaluating memorability can lead to Unintended Consequences

Dillon H. Murphy, Vered Halamish, Matthew G. Rhodes, Alan D. Castel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Predicting what we will remember and forget is crucial for daily functioning. We were interested in whether evaluating something as likely to be remembered or forgotten leads to enhanced memory for both forms of information relative to information that was not judged for memorability. We presented participants with lists of words to remember for a later test and on each list, participants were asked to identify some words that they were confident that they would remember and some words that they believed that they were most likely to forget on the test. Relative to words not given a prediction, memory was enhanced for words participants selected as likely to be remembered but also for words participants indicated were most likely to be forgotten. We also examined whether requiring participants to engage in self-cued directed forgetting by selecting a subset of words to be remembered or forgotten produced a memory advantage for these words. Results again demonstrated enhanced memory for selected words regardless of whether they were designated as to-be-remembered or to-be-forgotten. Thus, we demonstrate a reactivity type of effect such that when participants are asked to select certain items, this process can enhance memory regardless of the reason for selecting the item, potentially arising as a result of these words becoming more distinct and/or receiving additional processing. As such, the present results are consistent with the richness of encoding and metacognition modifying attention to cues accounts of reactivity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)375-403
Number of pages29
JournalMetacognition and Learning
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 2023
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023, The Author(s).


  • Directed forgetting
  • Forgetting
  • Memory
  • Metacognition
  • Reactivity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education

Cite this