The goal-directed use of human memory requires that irrelevant or unpleasant memories are, at least temporarily, reduced in their accessibility and memory for more relevant or pleasant information is enhanced, thus making memory more efficient. There is evidence that, in memory, inhibitory processes operate to serve this function. Results from three experimental paradigms are reviewed in which the action of intentionally and unintentionally recruited inhibitory processes has been suggested. The findings provide evidence on representational preconditions for the action of inhibitory processes, specifying binding structures in which inhibitory processes may be triggered and binding structures in which inhibitory processes are generally not observed. The findings also provide evidence on how inhibition affects memory representations, including changes at the memory unit level and changes in the binding between single units. Finally, current knowledge on the interplay between inhibition and emotion and on possible neural correlates of inhibitory processes is reviewed.
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