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Our memory wears rose-colored glasses

A study published in the latest issue of Journal of Personality finds that when people feel an event has had a large impact on them, e.g. it contributed to their life story or sense of identity, they downplay the negative and emphasize the positive. When asked to reflect on a negative memory, participants reported less negative emotion (like sadness) and more positive emotion (like pride) compared to how they recalled feeling at the time. The authors find that throughout life people strive to maintain a positive and coherent sense of self in the face of a wide range of adversity and opportunity.

The events and experiences related in the study were wide-ranging. Negative events included losing possessions, failing a course, physical assault, and death of a loved one. Positive events included saving money for a purchase and falling in love. Regardless of how outsiders may rate the events, self-defining memories are significant to the person and are emotionally complex. The authors explain, "When people report that an event has had a big impact on them, it probably indicates that they have thought a lot about the event, tried to make sense of the event, and attempted to fit that life event into their own personal history." To understand the event, individuals may examine it in terms of how it contributes positively to their lives while downplaying the negative.


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Contact: Jill Yablonski
JournalNews@bos.blackwellpublishing.net
781-388-8448
Blackwell Publishing Ltd.
16-May-2006


Page: 1

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