Department of Psychology and Behavioural Sciences

The cultural life script as cognitive schema: How the life script shapes memory for fictional life stories

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We tested, across three studies, the effect of the cultural life script on memory and its phenomenological properties. We focused, in particular, on the mnemonic effects of both schema-consistency and frequency in the life script. In addition to testing recognition (in Study 1) and recall (in Studies 2 and 3), we also collected remember/know judgments for remembered events (in Studies 1 and 2) and memory for their emotional valence (in Study 2). Our primary finding was that, across all three studies, higher-frequency events were more memorable than lower-frequency events, as measured through either recognition or recall. We also attained three additional, complementary effects: First, schema-inconsistent events received remember ratings more often than schema-consistent events (in Study 2, with a trend to this effect in Study 1); second, where an event’s emotional valence was inconsistent with the life script, memory for its valence was reconstructed to fit the script (in Study 2); and, third, intrusions in recall were disproportionately for life script events (in Study 3), though that was not the case in recognition (in Study 1). We conclude that the life script serves as a cognitive schema in how it shapes memory and its phenomenological properties.
Original languageEnglish
Issue number8
Pages (from-to)949-971
Number of pages23
StatePublished - 2014

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