We investigated neurocognitive processes of voluntarily avoiding conscious recollection by asking participants to either attempt to recollect (the Think condition) or to avoid recollecting (the No-Think condition) a previously exposed paired associate. Event-related potentials (ERPs) during Think and No-Think trials were separated on the basis of previous learning success versus failure. This separation yielded temporal and topographic dissociations between early ERP effects of a Think versus No-Think strategy, which were maximal between 200 and 300 ms after stimulus presentation and independent of learning status, and a later learning-specific ERP effect maximal between 500 and 800 ms after stimulus presentation. In this later time-window, Learned Think items elicited a larger late left parietal positivity than did Not Learned Think, Learned No-Think, and Not Learned No-Think items; moreover, Learned No-Think and Not Learned Think items did not differ in late left parietal positivity. Because the late left parietal positivity indexes conscious recollection, the results provide firm evidence that conscious recollection of recollectable information can be voluntarily avoided on an item-specific basis and help to clarify previous neural evidence from the Think/No-Think procedure, which could not separate item-specific from strategic processes. © 2007 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
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