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Does a person selectively recall the good or the bad from their personal past? It depends on the recall target and the person’s favourability of self-views

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In three studies, participants remembered real-life behaviours at Time 1 and attempted to recall them at Time 2.¬†When the recall target was the self, a positivity bias emerged: self-positivity. In Study 3, self-positivity extended to an individual (target) who was liked by the participant, but did it not extend to a disliked target. For this latter target, a negativity bias emerged. For recall targets that were participants’ acquaintances, self-positivity in recall was also eliminated in Studies 1 and 3, and a negativity bias in recall emerged in Study 2.¬†Finally, in Study 2 (but not Study 3), the favourability of participants’ self-view predicted the magnitude of the self-positivity in self-recall, but it did not predict valence effects in other-recall. Taken together, the results indicate that the link between behaviour valence and recall is moderated by the recall target and the favourability of one’s self-view.
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Keywords: Autobiographical memory; recall positivity bias; self; self-positivity

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Psychology, Saint Xavier University, Chicago, IL, USA 2: Center for Research on Self and Identity, Psychology Department, University of Southampton, UK 3: Department of Psychology, Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, IL, USA

Publication date: September 14, 2017

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