Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback

, Volume 42, Issue 1, pp 13–26 | Cite as

Attempts to Suppress Episodic Memories Fail but do Produce Demand: Evidence from the P300-Based Complex Trial Protocol and an Implicit Memory Test

  • Anne C. Ward
  • J. Peter RosenfeldEmail author


Instructions to voluntarily suppress memories of a mock crime have been reported to result in decreased P300 amplitude during a P300-based concealed information test (CIT) and reduced autobiographical Implicit Association Test (aIAT) D scores, supporting successful suppression. However, one such study, (Hu et al., Psychological science 26(7):1098–1106, 2015) used the P300-based Complex Trial Protocol with a 50–50 target to nontarget ratio, which could impose much response switching and thereby drain cognitive resources, also resulting in reduced P300. The present study replicated Hu et al. (Psychological science 26(7):1098–1106, 2015) with one major variation—a less intrusive 20–80 target to nontarget ratio that required less response switching. Detection rates were high using both the brainwave-based CIT (90% accuracy) and the aIAT (87% accuracy). However we found no significant differences between the suppression and simple guilty groups on the major indices of concealed information detection, which compare probe and irrelevant P300 responses. While we did find that overall P300 amplitude was reduced in the suppression group, this reduction was not specific to probe responses. Additionally, while there were group differences in aIAT hit rates, there were no differences in aIAT D scores. Taken together, these findings suggest that the previously demonstrated reductions in P300 are a reflection of task demand rather than of effective voluntary memory suppression.


Memory suppression P300 Concealed information test 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors, both Ward and Rosenfeld, declare there is no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study, as required by the Northwestern University IRB which approved this study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Psychology DepartmentNorthwestern UniversityEvanstonUSA

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