Distributed remembering in a social context: Effects of communicating a shared past on what is remembered


Remembering frequently involves collaboration among two or more individuals, often taking the form of a conversation. In some conversations, one person conveys new information to another, as when a daughter announces to her mother that she is engaged. In other conversations, two people talk to each other about a shared past, as when a couple reminisce about the evening on which they became engaged. The later instance has the potential to shape both what emerges in the discussion, as when one participant scaffolds the remembering of the other. It also has the potential to reshape how participants might subsequently remember the material, with the possibility that the memories of the participants will become more similar. In other words, what people remember is, in part, the result of how they jointly recount the past with others. Yet, despite the critical contribution of joint conversational remembering to memory, detailed study of this phenomenon is only beginning to be undertaken. The objective of this symposium is to bring together several strands of research that explores conversational, or, more generally, communicative influences on memory. The speakers offer a range of different approaches. Dr. Stone explores how public speeches can induce forgetting as well as reinforce memories across a large population and thereby promote a mnemonic convergence through a single social interaction. Dr. Echterhoff considers the role of motivation in moderating conversational influences. Dr. Coman investigates whether these conversational influences propagate across large networks of individuals and can thereby promote a mnemonic convergence. Dr. Edelson examines the neuroscience underlying memory conformity. And Dr. Michaelian engages the philosophical underpinning of the concept of collective memory. In a short summation, Dr. Hirst places these papers in the larger context of social aspects of memory and moderates further discussion.

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