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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Thanks for the memory failures : priming memory fallibility and interpretations of prospective and retrospective memory failures Crease, Michelle


Retrospective memory is the cognitive function associated with recalling details from the past, (e.g., someone’s name) whereas prospective memory is the cognitive function associated with recalling an intention or plan in the future (e.g., attending a meeting). There is an interesting hypothesis that states prospective memory failures (e.g., forgetting about a meeting) tend to be interpreted as personality flaws while retrospective memory failures (e.g., forgetting someone’s name) tend to be interpreted as simply memory breakdowns. Recent research has supported this hypothesis, however little is known about the properties of the memory failures that might influence the biases in interpretations or the underlying cognitive processes of the effect. Three experiments were designed to address these important issues. The first experiment examined sociality and importance of the memory failures as potential properties influencing interpretations. Participants were presented with memory failure vignettes that varied on these dimensions, and the bias towards personality flaw interpretations of prospective memory failures only occurred memory failures were social in nature. Furthermore, the effect was slightly weakened by the perspective from which the vignettes were written (the participant’s perspective). The second experiment developed a priming procedure that successfully induced a sense of self-perceived memory fallibility by requiring participants to generate examples of prospective and retrospective memory failures they had committed. In the third experiment this priming procedure was implemented prior to vignette interpretations with the objective of manipulating the interpretations bias. The results of Experiment 3 indicated that the priming manipulation reduced differences in the interpretations participants offered for prospective versus retrospective memory failures, particularly in terms of the seriousness, personality flaw, and poor memory interpretations of prospective failures. These results suggest that the priming procedure facilitated empathy the protagonist, and in this way reduced this interpretation bias.

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