The effect of regulation goals on emotional event-specific knowledge

Alisha C. Holland, Maya Tamir, Elizabeth A. Kensinger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


The constructivist nature of autobiographical memory leaves its retrieval susceptible to biases based on the current context. The present study addressed the hypothesis that the same memory could be recalled differently depending on a person's current regulation goals. In Experiment 1, a total of 58 participants recalled three events at a baseline session and again 2 weeks later when expecting to meet with an emotional individual. Individuals expecting to meet with a happy individual decreased the negative-and more specifically sad-words they used compared to the baseline session, whereas those expecting to meet with a sad individual showed the reverse effect. These findings were constrained by individual differences in extraversion. Significant effects were confined to events recalled second in order, suggesting the changes in emotional details might be due to controlled, regulatory processes. Using a false memory list-learning paradigm, Experiment 2 ruled out an alternative interpretation of the findings and confirmed that individuals can bias their memory in accord with regulation goals.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)504-521
Number of pages18
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2010
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Address correspondence to: Alisha C. Holland, Department of Psychology, Boston College, 140 Commonwealth Avenue, Chestnut Hill, MA 02467, USA. E-mail: Thank you to Jenny Wong, Alicia Kinton, Jillian Burdziak, and Amy Peters for help with data collection and coding, and to Hiram Brownell for helpful discussions regarding statistical analysis. This research was supported by a Dana Foundation grant to EAK and an NDSEG fellowship to ACH.


  • Autobiographical memory
  • Regulation


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