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Two Sides to Self-protection: Self-improvement Strivings and Feedback from Close Relationships Eliminate Mnemic Neglect

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People selectively forget feedback that threatens central self-conceptions, a phenomenon labeled mnemic neglect. Such forgetting serves to protect the self-system, but its rigid application may be associated with liabilities such as failing to learn about one's weaknesses. Two experiments tested the extent to which mnemic neglect is rigid or flexible. In Experiment 1, where self-improvement strivings were primed, mnemic neglect was absent: threatening and non-threatening feedback was recalled equally. In Experiment 2, participants received feedback either from a stranger or a close relationship. Participants recalled poorly threatening stranger feedback but recalled well threatening close-relationship feedback. Self-protection is flexible and strategic. Individuals recall well self-threatening feedback when they are concerned with self-improvement and when the feedback has ramifications for long-term relationships.
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Keywords: Close relationship; Mnemic; Self-enhancement; Self-improvement; Self-protection

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, Virginia, USA 2: University of Southampton, Southampton, UK 3: Pennsylvania State University, Altoona, Pennsylvania, USA

Publication date: April 1, 2009

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