Mental simulations of future experiences are often concerned with emotionally arousing events. Although it is widely believed that mental simulations enhance future behavior, virtually nothing is known about how memory for these simulations changes over time or whether simulations of emotional experiences are especially well remembered. We used a novel paradigm that combined recently developed methods for generating simulations of future events and well-established procedures for testing memory to examine the retention of positive, negative, and neutral simulations over delays of 10 min and 1 day. We found that at the longer delay, details associated with negative simulations were more difficult to remember than details associated with positive or neutral simulations. We suggest that these effects reflect the influence of the fading-affect bias, whereby negative reactions fade more quickly than positive reactions, and that this influence results in a tendency to remember a rosy simulated future. We discuss implications of our findings for individuals with affective disorders, such as depression and anxiety.(Schacter, in the Harvard Psychology department, is a prolific memory researcher, and is author of such popular books as "The Seven Sins of Memory: How the Mind Forgets and Remembers." as well as coauthor, along with Gilbert and Wegner, of a really excellent introductory college Psychology text.)
Monday, January 16, 2012
Remembering a rosy future.
Here is a fascinating tidbit from Dan Schacter's laboratory. When we imagine events in the future, our subsequent recall of negative simulations fades more rapidly than our recall of positive ones.: