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Long-term memory for the emotional gist and the emotional essence of an experience

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We investigated accuracy in recalling past emotional behaviours and emotionality. Male couples discussed the history of their relationship, and coders rated the extent to which each partner engaged in behaviours such as complimenting or criticising. These ratings were combined into dimensions representing the deeper, emotional essence of that partner's discussion (expressions of We-ness, Fondness, Negativity, and Disappointment). Four years later, participants accurately recalled some of their own and some of their partner's emotional gist-level behaviours, but their answers indicated that they also remembered the emotional essence of the conversation. We conclude that individuals can retain the emotional essence of an experience for a long time, and that they may use this memory to infer, in part, gist-level details of the experience.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: The Catholic University of America, Washington, DC, USA

Publication date: November 1, 2007

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