טכניון מכון טכנולוגי לישראל
הטכניון מכון טכנולוגי לישראל - בית הספר ללימודי מוסמכים  
M.Sc Thesis
M.Sc StudentSonya Stutman
SubjectThe Positivity Bias in Memory for Negative Emotions:
The Moderating Effect Event Present Relevance
and Recalled Event Appraisals
DepartmentDepartment of Industrial Engineering and Management
Supervisor Full Professor Rafaeli Anat
Full Thesis textFull thesis text - English Version


Abstract

In the last decade, memory for emotions has been recognized as an important aspect of personal memories, affecting daily behaviors, future plans and life choices. The growing body of research in this domain has revealed a tendency to recall the past as less negative, a phenomenon known as the positivity bias and related to emotion regulation abilities and general well being. However, in some cases people seem to accurately recall negative emotions or even overestimate them. The lack of positivity bias in those instances implies to the existence of possible moderators.

Based on previous findings, the current research suggests the positivity bias in memory for negative emotions is moderated by the extent of the event personal relevance at the time of recall. Furthermore, following the finding that people use their current appraisals of the event as a source of information in the reconstruction of specific recalled emotions, the present research proposes that memories of past event appraisals may also be used to infer and reconstruct specific emotions.

The study setting was an emotionally evocative event for the student population in Israel: the 2008 lecturers strike. In the week prior to the strike's conclusion, students rated their emotional reactions to the strike and various appraisals of the strike. Four months later, the same students reported their recalled emotions and appraisals, in addition to current appraisals. By measuring initial emotions at the very time they were experienced, we were able to assess the actual accuracy of emotion memory, unlike previous studies which measured initial emotional responses after the event conclusion.

The study confirmed the occurrence of the positivity bias in memory for negative emotions in a real-life setting, as manifested in the general tendency to underestimate the intensity of past negative emotions. Moreover, the study demonstrates the role of event present personal relevance as a moderator of the positivity bias, in that students affected by the strike at the time of recall were less prone to the positivity bias than students not presently affected. Finally, the study indicates that the reconstruction of memory for specific emotions is partially based on recalled related appraisals, lending support to the conclusion that memory of past emotions is partially reconstructed or inferred not only on the basis of current appraisals of the past emotion-eliciting events, but also on the basis of the memory of these appraisals.