Menu Close

Effects of Emotion and Age on Performance during a Think/No-Think Memory Task


Murray, Brendan D.; Muscatell, Keely A.; & Kensinger, Elizabeth A. (2011). Effects of Emotion and Age on Performance during a Think/No-Think Memory Task. Psychology and Aging, 26(4), 940-955. PMCID: PMC3192292


Recent studies have demonstrated that young adults can voluntarily suppress information from memory when directed to. After learning novel word pairings to criterion, participants are shown individual words and instructed either to "think" about the associated word, or to put it out of mind entirely ("no-think"). When given a surprise cued recall test, participants typically show impaired recall for no-think words relative to think or "control" (un-manipulated) words. The present study investigated whether this controlled suppression effect persists in an aged population, and examined how the emotionality of the to-be-suppressed word affects suppression ability. Data from four experiments using the think/no-think task demonstrate that older and younger adults can suppress information when directed to (Experiment 1), and the age groups do not differ significantly in this ability. Experiments 2 through 4 demonstrate that both age groups can suppress words that are emotional (positive or negative valence) or neutral. The suppression effect also persists even if participants are tested using independent probe words that are semantically related to the target words but were not the studied cue words (Experiments 3 and 4). These data suggest that the cognitive functioning necessary to suppress information from memory is present in older adulthood, and that both emotional and neutral information can be successfully suppressed from memory.


Reference Type

Journal Article

Year Published


Journal Title

Psychology and Aging


Murray, Brendan D.
Muscatell, Keely A.
Kensinger, Elizabeth A.