Biased retellings of events yield biased memories.
When people retell events, they take different perspectives for different audiences and purposes. In four experiments, we examined the effects of this postevent reorganization of events on memory for the original events. In each experiment, participants read a story, wrote a biased letter about one of the story characters, and later remembered the original story. Participants' letters contained more story details and more elaborations relevant to the purpose of their retellings. More importantly, the letter perspective affected the amount of information recalled (Experiments 1, 3, and 4) and the direction of the errors in recall (Experiments 1 and 3) and recognition (Experiment 2). Selective rehearsal plays an important role in these bias effects: retelling involves selectively retrieving and using story information, with consequent differences in memory. However, biased memory occurred even when the biased letters contained little, if any, specific information (Experiment 4) or contained the same amount and kinds of story information as a neutral control condition (Experiment 3). Biased memory is a consequence of the reorganizing schema guiding the retelling perspective, in addition to the effects of rehearsing specific information in retelling.
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