Overcoming fixation with repeated memory suppression
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Fixation (blocks to memories or ideas) can be alleviated not only by encouraging productive work towards a solution, but, as the present experiments show, by reducing counterproductive work. Two experiments examined relief from fixation in a word-fragment completion task. Blockers, orthographically similar negative primes (e.g., ANALOGY), blocked solutions to word fragments (e.g., A_L_ _GY) in both experiments. After priming, but before the fragment completion test, participants repeatedly suppressed half of the blockers using the Think/No-Think paradigm, which results in memory inhibition. Inhibiting blockers did not alleviate fixation in Experiment 1 when conscious recollection of negative primes was not encouraged on the fragment completion test. In Experiment 2, however, when participants were encouraged to remember negative primes at fragment completion, relief from fixation was observed. Repeated suppression may nullify fixation effects, and promote creative thinking, particularly when fixation is caused by conscious recollection of counterproductive information.
author list (cited authors)
Angello, G., Storm, B. C., & Smith, S. M.