Forgetting in Social Chains: The Impact of Cognition on Information Propagation

In: Journal of Cognition and Culture
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  • 1 Department of Psychology, Princeton University
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Listening to a speaker selectively practicing previously encoded information leads to better memory for the practiced information, but at the same time results in induced forgetting of related memories. These effects have been found to occur due to the concurrent, and covert, retrieval of information on the part of the listener. Using a modified version of the method of serial reproduction (Bartlett, 1932), this study explored the degree to which rehearsal and retrieval-induced forgetting effects propagated in 64 3-person-chains of connected participants. We manipulated the degree of concurrent retrieval from the part of the listener by activating high and low relational motivations during the listening task. We showed that the degree of propagation of retrieval-induced forgetting was larger when concurrent retrieval was activated (high-relational motivation) than when concurrent retrieval was attenuated (low-relational motivation). This study provides a framework that aims to bridge between micro-level cognitive phenomena and macro-level social dynamics.

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