Personality, habits of thought and gender influence how we remember

Diana Yates
EurekAlert

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — We all have them – positive memories of personal events that are a delight to recall, and painful recollections that we would rather forget. A new study reveals that what we do with our emotional memories and how they affect us has a lot to do with our gender, personality and the methods we use (often without awareness) to regulate our feelings.

The study appears in Emotion, a journal of the American Psychological Association.

“We’re looking at traits that are associated with the way that people process the emotional world and the way that they respond to it,” said University of Illinois psychology professor Florin Dolcos, who conducted the study with postdoctoral researcher Sanda Dolcos and University of Alberta postdoctoral researcher Ekaterina Denkova. “We wanted to look not only at how personality traits might influence what and how people remember, but also to examine how that impacts their (subsequent) emotional state.”

Previous studies of personality and its relationship to autobiographical memory have tended to focus only on women and only on negative memories, Florin Dolcos said. They do this because women are more likely than men to be diagnosed with emotional disorders such as depression or anxiety, which are associated with an increased focus on negative emotions.

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