Forgetting our personal past: Socially shared retrieval-induced forgetting of autobiographical memories

Charles B. Stone*, Amanda J. Barnier, John Sutton, William Hirst

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

56 Citations (Scopus)


People often talk to others about their personal past. These discussions are inherently selective. Selective retrieval of memories in the course of a conversation may induce forgetting of unmentioned but related memories for both speakers and listeners (Cuc, Koppel, & Hirst, 2007). Cuc et al. (2007) defined the forgetting on the part of the speaker as within-individual retrieval-induced forgetting (WI-RIF) and the forgetting on the part of the listener as socially shared retrieval-induced forgetting (SS-RIF). However, if the forgetting associated with WI-RIF and SS-RIF is to be taken seriously as a mechanism that shapes both individual and shared memories, this mechanism must be demonstrated with meaningful material and in ecologically valid groups. In our first 2 experiments we extended SS-RIF from unemotional, experimenter-contrived material to the emotional and unemotional autobiographical memories of strangers (Experiment 1) and intimate couples (Experiment 2) when merely overhearing the speaker selectively practice memories. We then extended these results to the context of a free-flowing conversation (Experiments 3 and 4). In all 4 experiments we found WI-RIF and SS-RIF regardless of the emotional valence or individual ownership of the memories. We discuss our findings in terms of the role of conversational silence in shaping both our personal and shared pasts.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1084-1099
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: General
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2013


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