Couples as socially distributed cognitive systems: remembering in everyday social and material contexts

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85 Citations (Scopus)


In everyday life remembering occurs within social contexts, and theories from a number of disciplines predict cognitive and social benefits of shared remembering. Recent debates have revolved around the possibility that cognition can be distributed across individuals and material resources, as well as across groups of individuals. We review evidence from a maturing program of empirical research in which we adopted the lens of distributed cognition to gain new insights into the ways that remembering might be shared in groups. Across four studies, we examined shared remembering in intimate couples. We studied their collaboration on more simple memory tasks as well as their conversations about shared past experiences. We also asked them about their everyday memory compensation strategies in order to investigate the complex ways that couples may coordinate their material and interpersonal resources. We discuss our research in terms of the costs and benefits of shared remembering, features of the group and features of the remembering task that influence the outcomes of shared remembering, the cognitive and interpersonal functions of shared remembering, and the interaction between social and material resources. More broadly, this interdisciplinary research program suggests the potential for empirical psychology research to contribute to ongoing interdisciplinary discussions of distributed cognition.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)285-297
Number of pages13
JournalMemory Studies
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2014


  • Autobiographical memory
  • distributed cognition
  • intimate relationships
  • memory systems
  • social memory


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