Memory bias and directed forgetting

Ever wonder at how someone with an ED can remember minute details of calories and weight but be unable to remember things like "my mother loves me" and "where's my homework?"

The starved brain is, of necessity, very focused. It is acutely attuned to things connected to starvation, and not that interested in other things.

This research is interesting, and the title is poetry:

"Memory bias in anorexia nervosa: Evidence from directed forgetting."


  1. This is fascinating stuff which I've been going over and over in my mind. My daughter feels (and I do in many ways agree with her) that a large part of her eating disorder was an attempt to self-medicate for her chaotic personality (she says it's ADHD but the docs disagree - think ritalin + ed and the associated difficulties) and this makes such sense - starvation did give her the ability to concentrate :-(

  2. Surely if you are asked to forget something you will only remember it more? If someone says, 'don't look at the elephant!', what's the first thing everybody does?

    I think I prefer the interpretation that those with eating disorders are simply more honest!

    But yes. Of course you remember things better if they are relevant and you are interested in them.

  3. I was searching for the link for this paper online, and came across this! I'm the second author on this paper, and I ran all the control subjects and analyzed all the data. So, I can speak for the directed forgetting results the above commentator mentioned.

    If you ask someone to forget a word after they processed it, they have no problem of doing so. The effect is called "directed forgetting". If you look at the control subjects data (no-eating-disordered), they have no problem of suppressing those words. However, it becomes problematic when you tell the patients to forget the disorder-related words. And, they can forget the neutral words as good as the control subjects. So, yes, "don't look at the elephant" attracts attention to the elephant but it's a completely different effect.

  4. A miracle of the Internet is that one of the authors of a paper I mentioned years ago might happen onto it like this - I just love it.

    This kind of research continues to fascinate me and give me hope we'll better understand it all. If EDs were not so dangerous and awful it would be interesting, still, intellectually. I look forward to the day we are speaking post-ED.

    And I still say the title was poetry!


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