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Journal Article

Motivated Forgetting in Response to Social Identity Threat

Amy N. Dalton and Li Huang
Journal of Consumer Research
Vol. 40, No. 6 (April 2014), pp. 1017-1038
Published by: Oxford University Press
DOI: 10.1086/674198
Stable URL:
Page Count: 22
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Motivated Forgetting in Response to Social Identity Threat
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Motivated forgetting is a psychological defense mechanism whereby people cope with threatening and unwanted memories by suppressing them from consciousness. A series of laboratory experiments investigate whether social identity threat can motivate people subsequently to forget identity-linked marketing promotions. To this effect, whereas social identity priming improves memory for identity-linked promotions, priming coupled with social identity threat (i.e., negative identity-related feedback) impairs memory. Importantly, this identity threat effect occurs only among people who identify strongly with their in-group and only for explicit memory. Implicit memory, in contrast, remains intact under threat. Additionally, the identity threat effect is eliminated (i.e., explicit memory is restored) if people affirm the threatened social identity, thereby mitigating the threat, prior to memory retrieval. Finally, the identity threat effect occurs only when automatic processes guide forgetting. When forgetting is guided by deliberate and controlled processes, the to-be-forgotten memories intrude into consciousness.

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