Self-Serving Episodic Memory Biases: Findings in the Repressive Coping Style


Individuals with a repressive coping style self-report low anxiety, but show high defensiveness and high physiological arousal. Repressors have impoverished negative autobiographical memories and are better able to suppress memory for negatively valenced and self-related laboratory materials when asked to do so. Research on spontaneous forgetting of negative information in repressors suggests that they show significant forgetting of negative items, but only after a delay. Unknown is whether increased forgetting after a delay is potentiated by self-relevance. Here we asked in three experiments whether repressors would show reduced episodic memories for negative self-relevant information when tested immediately versus after a 2-day delay. We predicted that repressors would show an exaggerated reduction in recall of negative self-relevant memories after a delay, at least without anew priming of this information. We tested a total of 300 participants (experiment 1: N = 95, experiment 2: N = 106; experiment 3: N = 99) of four types: repressors, high-anxious (HA), low-anxious, and defensive HA individuals. Participants judged positive and negative adjectives with regard to self-descriptiveness, serving as incidental encoding. Surprise free-recall was conducted immediately after encoding (experiment 1), after a 2-day delay (experiment 2), or after a 2-day delay following priming via a lexical decision task (experiment 3). In experiment 1, repressors showed a bias against negative self-relevant words in immediate recall. Such a bias was neither observed in delayed recall without priming nor in delayed recall with priming. Thus, counter to our hypothesis, negative information that was initially judged as self-relevant was not forgotten at a higher rate after a delay in repressors. We suggest that repressors may reinterpret initially negative information in a more positive light after a delay, and therefore no longer experience the need to bias their recall after a delay.

DOI: 10.3389/fnbeh.2013.00117

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@inproceedings{Alston2013SelfServingEM, title={Self-Serving Episodic Memory Biases: Findings in the Repressive Coping Style}, author={Lauren L. Alston and Carissa Kratchmer and Anna Jeznach and Nathan T. Bartlett and Patrick S. R. Davidson and Esther Fujiwara}, booktitle={Front. Behav. Neurosci.}, year={2013} }