Forgetting in future work systems: System characteristics and user-related psychological consequences on emotion, cognition, and behaviors

Ellwart Thomas, Ulfert Anna-Sophie, Antoni Conny H., Becker Jörg, Frings Christian, Göbel Kyra, Hertel Guido, Kluge Anette, Meeßen Sarah M., Niessen Cornelia, Nohe Christoph, Riehle Dennis M., Runge Yannick, Schmid Ute, Schüffler Arnulf, Siebers Michael, Sonnentag Sabine, Tempel Tobias, Thielsch Meinald T., Wehrt Wilken


Work environments of the future offer numerous applications of intentional forgetting (IF) with many benefits for organizations, teams, and individuals. In order to manage increasing amounts of information, IF can be applied as a method to improve performance of work systems or to extend cognitive capacities of humans and/or technical systems. Different technology aided approaches have been suggested for assisting IF, such as: (1) suppressing of irrelevant or distressful information (e.g., by hiding or deleting information), (2) delegating or rearranging information, roles, or tasks to a digital system, or (3) by systematic placement of retrieval cues or triggers to generate or replace behavior. The implementation of IF can thus differ substantially between work areas or systems.

From the perspective of industrial and organizational psychology, it can be argued that IF systems should be designed based on the needs of the human user. Depending on their unique properties, technological systems have been shown to have an impact on human behavior, affective reactions towards a system, and the users' willingness to use the technology (Venkatesh & Bala, 2008). The aim of the present research program is to classify and compare characteristics of different IF systems. Additionally, psychological effects on users' behavior, experience, and affective reactions will be studied.

For that purpose, the IF systems of six psychological research groups within the research network of the DFG SPP 1921, representing these three approaches, are compared: IF systems focussing on (1) suppressing irrelevant information (Managed forgetting, Frings et al.; Dare2Del, Niessen et al.), (2) delegating/rearranging information or tasks (AdaptPRO, Ellwart et a.; Getrost Vergessen, Hertel et al.), and (3) placement of retrieval cues or triggers (Intentional Forgetting, Routines & Retrieval Cues, Kluge et al.; iVAA, Sonnentag et al.). On a conceptual level, we first examine the characteristics in which the IF systems differ (research question 1). In future experimental studies a research design is applied across the six research projects, to study and compare the systems' effects on psychological experiences and behavior (research question 2). The conceptual approach as well as the planned experiment will be part of this presentation.

Theoretical framework: IF systems are compared and connected to theoretical models of technology acceptance (TAM; Venkatesh & Bala, 2008). Key characteristics are (1) application level of the system (e.g., team vs. individual), (2) level of user control over the system, as well as (3) the system functioning as a facilitator of forgetting (systematic placement of cues) or as an inhibitor of certain behaviors (e.g., by hiding or deleting information). Based on the TAM it is assumed that these characteristics affect individuals' acceptance of the IF system as well as their willingness to work with it.

Procedure & Design: Each research group is conducting experimental applications of IF systems differing in the described characteristics. Following the initial experiment (lasting 60-120 mins), participants receive a vignette describing the situation of being in a future work environment using the IF system participants have worked with in the initial experiment. Participants are asked to rate their behavioral and affective reactions, their trust in the system, as well as their willingness to use the system. Comparing behavioral and affective reactions across different IF settings allows us to evaluate system characteristics leading to different user reactions.

Value: With growing amounts of information processing requirements at work, IF systems become increasingly important. However, the systems can differ substantially in their characteristics. In order to gain a better understanding of how IF systems impact human behavior and reactions, it is necessary to (1) differentiate between IF system characteristics and (2) gain an understanding of how these characteristics have an impact on users.

intentional forgetting; future work systems; technology acceptance

Kurzbeitrag (Poster)




Conference on Intentional Forgetting in Organisations and Work Settings

Potsdam, Germany