Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The waxing and waning of self-threatening memories: Testing the cognitive mechanisms of the mnemic neglect model
by Wells, Brett M., Ph.D., Northern Illinois University, 2012, 113; 3540600
Abstract (Summary)

The phenomenon of mnemic neglect (MN) shows that individuals recall poorly behaviors that simultaneously possess three characteristics: (1) refer to the self, (2) pertain to central self-aspects, and (3) are negative. The explanation for this effect is centered on the notions that: (1) people are motivated to protect and enhance the self and (2) self-threatening behaviors are processed minimally. The experiments reported in this dissertation examined these ideas. A Pilot Study replicated the MN effect and examined the extent to which patterns in behavior processing time mirrored patterns in behavior recall. The processing time data did not fit hypotheses derived from the MN model: Processing times for central negative behaviors were equal regardless of whether the behaviors described the self or another person (Chris). Hence, processing time cannot explain the poor recall observed in the central negative condition for self-relevant behaviors when compared to recall for Chris-relevant behaviors. Experiment 1 tested hypotheses derived from the MN model by manipulating the level of cognitive load present during behavior encoding. In support of the MN model, the imposition of cognitive load eliminated MN, and was especially unlikely to interfere with the subsequent recall of self-threatening behaviors. Experiment 2 tested the MN model by manipulating autobiographical elaboration during behavior encoding. Contrary to predictions derived from the MN model, autobiographical elaboration did not selectively boost recall for self-threatening behaviors. Driven by the idea that recall for negative events may fade faster than recall for positive events, Experiment 3 probed for evidence of MN after a delay. Confirming prior results, MN did not emerge in a recognition task, and did emerge in a recall task, regardless of delay. Lastly, exploratory analyses of behavior intrusions (e.g., recalling behaviors that were not presented) across the Pilot Study and three experiments found additional support for the operation of self-protection motives and self-enhancement motives on memory, especially for self-threatening events. Both the significance and innovation of this dissertation are discussed, as well as possible directions for future research.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Skowronski, John J.
Commitee: Crouch, Julie L., Durik, Amanda M., Sagarin, Brad J., Santuzzi, Alecia M., Wiemer, Katja
School: Northern Illinois University
Department: Psychology
School Location: United States -- Illinois
Source: DAI-B 74/02(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Social psychology, Experimental psychology
Keywords: Mnemic neglect, Recall, Recognition, Self-enhancement, Self-protection
Publication Number: 3540600
ISBN: 978-1-267-65860-9
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