Emotional and cognitive sources of retrospective memory bias
This longitudinal study examined retrospective memory bias and the contributions of current state of distress and self-enhancement to recall bias. Sixty-nine students at a university in New York City were asked to complete a weekly web-based survey of life events throughout their four years of study. At the end of the four years, they were asked to recall the total number of events which they had endorsed during the study. In general, participants tended to under-estimate the number of events they had experienced. Recall for potentially traumatic events (PTEs) was relatively accurate but there was still some variability in the recalled number of events. Our study found the recall bias was not random and that higher levels of distress at the time of recall were associated with a higher number of recalled PTEs and, therefore, a reduction in the under-estimation bias. However, we also found a significant interaction between distress and self enhancement. Participants with higher levels of distress and higher levels of self-enhancement recalled fewer numbers of PTEs when compared to their less self-enhancing peers. The implications for research and theory development are discussed.