We remember, we forget: Collaborative remembering in older couples

Celia B. Harris, Paul G. Keil, John Sutton, Amanda J. Barnier, Doris J F McIlwain

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

150 Citations (Scopus)


Transactive memory theory describes the processes by which benefits for memory can occur when remembering is shared in dyads or groups. In contrast, cognitive psychology experiments demonstrate that social influences on memory disrupt and inhibit individual recall. However, most research in cognitive psychology has focused on groups of strangers recalling relatively meaningless stimuli. This study examined social influences on memory in groups with a shared history, who were recalling a range of stimuli, from word lists to personal, shared memories. The study focused, in detail, on the products and processes of remembering during in-depth interviews with 12 older married couples. These interviews consisted of three recall tasks: (a) word list recall; (b) personal list recall, where stimuli were relevant to the couples' shared past; and (c) an open-ended autobiographical interview. These tasks individually conducted and then collaboratively conducted two weeks later. Across each of the tasks, although some couples demonstrated collaborative inhibition, others demonstrated collaborative facilitation. A number of factors were identified that predicted collaborative success-in particular, grouplevel strategy use. The results show that collaboration may help or hinder memory, and certain interactions are more likely to produce collaborative benefits.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)267-303
Number of pages37
JournalDiscourse Processes
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - May 2011


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