Two sides to every story: The influence of audience on autobiographical memory

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2020-01-01
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Boytos, Abby
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Kristi A Costabile
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Psychology
The Department of Psychology may prepare students with a liberal study, or for work in academia or professional education for law or health-services. Graduates will be able to apply the scientific method to human behavior and mental processes, as well as have ample knowledge of psychological theory and method.
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Individuals describe their life experiences differently in response to their audience'sverbal and behavioral cues, which in turn, influences how the teller connects the experiences tothe self-concept (Weeks & Pasupathi, 2011). Research on audience tuning (Higgins, 1992)suggests that one reason audiences influence communication is that people are motivated to forma shared reality with their audience (Echterhoff, Higgins, & Groll, 2005). Combining research onautobiographical memory with that on audience tuning, the current project considers howcommunicating about personal memories with others can affect how individuals describe andreflect on their autobiographical memories, and how motivation to form a shared reality withothers affects this process. Experiment 1 examined the effects of audience perspective on eventmemory descriptions, event memory topic attitudes, and the perceptions and self-typicality of thedescribed memory. In this experiment, participants were asked to think about a personal memoryrelated to a specific topic and then, were randomly assigned to write about that experience for anaudience that had either a positive or negative perspective on the topic or for an audience whoseperspective is unknown. Experiment 2 examined whether the audience-bias effect occurs as afunction of written elaboration. Contrary to predictions, results of both experiments indicatedthat participants' memory descriptions and self-typicality of the memories were not biased in thedirection of their audience. However, as predicted, subsequent attitudes about the memory topicand event memory perceptions were biased in the direction of the audience's perspective.Moreover, results of Experiment 2 indicated that the audience-bias effect was observed onlywhen communicators were permitted to elaborate on their memories, indicating the importanceof elaboration to the biasing process. In addition, across both experiments, the audience-biaseffect was more pronounced for individuals who experienced greater shared reality with their audience. This project highlights the importance of audience perspective and shared reality inrelation to communication about self-relevant experiences.

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Fri May 01 00:00:00 UTC 2020