Social contagion of autobiographical memories

Celia B. Harris*, Amanda J. Barnier, John Sutton, Tasneem Khan

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    13 Citations (Scopus)


    We modified the social contagion of memory paradigm to track whether details mentioned during social interaction are transmitted to later individual recall for personal, autobiographical memories. Participants recalled four autobiographical events. A week later, participants described these events to a confederate, who described scripted "memories." They then summarised each other's recall. When summarising participants' memories, confederates inserted two specific new details. Finally, participants recalled the events individually. We scored final individual recall for suggested contagion (new details inserted by confederates) and unsuggested contagion (new details consistent with confederates' scripted memories but not suggested). We found social contagion for autobiographical memories: at final recall, 30% of participants recalled at least one suggested detail. Notably, at final recall, 90% of participants recalled at least one unsuggested detail from confederates' scripted memories. Thus, social interaction, even if fairly minimal, can result in the transmission of specific details into memory for personal, autobiographical events.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)319–327
    Number of pages9
    JournalJournal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - Sept 2017


    • social contagion
    • autobiographical memory
    • social influence
    • social memory


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