Memory accuracy in the recall of emotions


Thomas, D. L., & Diener, E. (1990). Memory accuracy in the recall of emotions. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 59(2), 291-297.


Study tested whether Ss could accurately estimate the intensity and the relative frequency of their positive vs. negative emotions and the degree to which 1 dimension biases the recall of another. Ss completed mood reports at random moments each day or at the end of the day against which were compared their mood estimates. Estimates made prior to the mood-reporting periods were used to control for the effects of prolonged mood reporting. Various types of accuracy were examined: absolute, in which Ss overestimated their emotional intensity and underestimated the frequency of their positive affect vs. their negative affect; relative, in which Ss' relative frequency estimates were moderately accurate; and discriminant, in which intensity estimates were biased by actual frequency, whereas frequency estimates were unbiased by intensity. Ss' accuracy did not improve substantially following the daily recording of their moods, suggesting a problem at the retrieval stage. The theoretical and measurement implications of the results are discussed.

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