Conversational remembering and memory function: Do shared reality and elaboration enhance memory functions during autobiographical recall?

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Boytos, Abby Sue
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Costabile, Kristi
Blankenship, Kevin
Chan, Jason
Cross, Susan
Meissner, Christian
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Autobiographical memories are used to satisfy important psychosocial goals related to self, social, and directive outcomes (Bluck et al., 2005). The current project examined how processes during conversational remembering may enhance the self, social, and directive use of a recalled memory among Western college students. Three experiments were conducted to explore how the experience of a shared reality with an audience and communicator elaboration of a memory both contribute to memory function and well-being during conversational remembering. The first experiment manipulated shared reality and memory elaboration to examine whether experiencing shared reality during conversational remembering enhances satisfaction of self, social, and directive goals. Results indicated that descriptions of audience members as valuing the role of autobiographical memory enhanced communicator’s satisfaction of social and self goals indirectly through the creation of a shared reality with the audience. However, audience interest did not appear to affect satisfaction of directive memory goals. Additionally, memory elaboration enhanced the importance of the recalled memory, but did not appear to affect social or directive memory outcomes. A replication of Experiment 1 was also conducted which demonstrated that participants assigned to the high interest audience reported greater self, social, and directive memory outcomes as compared to participants assigned to the low interest audience, and elaboration did not appear to affect memory outcomes. Experiment 2 applied these findings to conversational remembering in real life encounters by using a daily diary sampling method in which participants recorded their experiences involving conversational remembering. Findings from Experiment 2 indicated that on days that participants reported experiencing greater shared reality with their conversation partners during their conversational remembering encounters, they experienced greater well-being, relative to their average level of well-being. Participants also experienced greater well-being on days when they reported discussing more positive memories and when they reported more memory goals related to social connection. Shared reality remained an important predictor of well-being even after controlling for baseline well-being and other daily factors (e.g., memory valence, emotional intensity of conversation). The current project highlights the importance of establishing a shared reality with one’s audience when conversing about autobiographical events and this work illustrates important psychological benefits of sharing our stories with others.