Negative self-referent information about central traits is recalled relatively poorly. Such mnemic neglect-a form of self-protective memory-entails the selective processing of threatening information. Here, we hypothesize a specific mechanism whereby it occurs: nonthreatening information gets integrated with stored self-knowledge, whereas threatening information gets separated from it. In two experiments participants read behavioral information in tandem with a processing instruction designed to either separate it from, or integrate it with, stored self-knowledge. As hypothesized, information recall (but not recognition) was reduced following separation as opposed to integration instructions. Moreover, although concurrent mnemic neglect effects emerged in Experiment 2, the recall of central negative information was less boosted by integration instructions than the recall of central positive information was impaired by separation instructions, consistent with greater striving to self-protect than to self-enhance. Overall, the results implicate the separation of self-threatening information from stor ed self-knowledge as a mechanism underlying mnemic neglect.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Social Psychology
- Developmental and Educational Psychology