Sample Debriefing Statement
Debriefing for study entitled Memory for Novel Research Techniques
Thank you for your participation in this experiment. The goal of this study was to determine the effect of "directed forgetting" on memory for events. In this experiment, you were taught two data collection procedures that were supposedly going to be used for sleep deprivation and creativity studies, respectively. You were asked to forget one of the procedures, but remember the other. After a one-week delay, we asked you to recall the information from both events. We were interested in how well you would remember the information you were asked to forget compared to your memory for the to-be-remembered event. In order to compare directed forgetting of an actual event with forgetting of other stimuli, we also presented word lists to you with the instructions to forget some words and to remember others. The intervening concentration task served the purpose of clearing your short-term memory of words that had just been presented.
Your participation is not only greatly appreciated by the researchers involved, but the data collected could possibly aid people working with victims of traumatic events, including abuse, neglect and other types of victimization. Directed forgetting paradigms provide a useful and meaningful insight into the memory processes that may lead people to purposefully forget something they have experienced.
The nature of the phenomenon we are investigating required minor deception on our part; for instance, we had to construct a credible "cover story" for why we would want you to forget one of the procedures you had been shown. Moreover, the procedures we demonstrated are mock techniques that would not actually work; we did this (as opposed to teaching you real techniques) to ensure that there would not be any differences between participants regarding prior knowledge and experience with the procedures, which would affect memory performance. Finally, some of the questions we asked during the memory interviews were misleading in that they asked you to provide information about an aspect of the event that never really even occurred. This was done to explore the question of whether people are more likely to be suggestive when asked about events they had been told to forget as opposed to those they were trying to remember.
Finally, we urge you not to discuss this study with anyone else who is currently participating or might participate at a future point in time. As you can certainly appreciate, we will not be able to examine directed forgetting in participants who know about the true purpose of the project beforehand.