Date of Award

2016

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Scoboria, Alan

Keywords

autobiographical memory; belief in accuracy; belief in occurrence; decision-making; disconfirmatory social feedback; intimate partner aggression

Rights

CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

Abstract

This research program examined the experience of social challenges to autobiographical memories. The overarching goals of the research were to 1) obtain a general descriptive overview of challenges to memory and resulting outcomes; 2) test predictions derived from Scoboria’s (2016) model of decision-making about belief in events and resulting communication that follows from challenges to memories; and, 3) examine the implications of the model within a specialized population of interest (the experience of challenge to memories of intimate partner aggression). In Study 1, a survey method was used to explore social challenges to memories in general (N = 285). This study revealed that social challenges resulted in a rich variety of decision-making processes and outcomes, and provided evidence supportive of the outcomes predicted by the model. Two additional studies explored social challenges within the context of intimate partner aggression. In Study 2, rich qualitative information was obtained from a sample of heterosexual women (N = 12) about their experience when memories for aggressive acts were disconfirmed by their aggressive partners or other people. The findings demonstrated that many concepts from the autobiographical memory literature are relevant to this context, and provided insights into the manners by which the women came to question, reduce, and/or defend their memorial beliefs, and the behavioural outcomes that resulted. Study 3 used survey methods similar to Study 1 to sample women who had experienced social challenges by intimate partners to memories of intimate partner aggression (N = 115), to examine the outcomes that resulted from challenges to memories about aggression. The results supported the general applicability of the model, including ideas such as evidence about dissonance, alterations in memorial beliefs, and different behavioural outcomes in reaction to the challenge (i.e., agree/disagree). All of the studies highlighted the importance of expanding the model to account for the connection between social disconfirmation and belief in the accuracy of memories. All three studies supported the notion that vacillation in memorial beliefs is common when individuals experience social disconfirmation about their memories, and that such vacillation may be amplified as social consequences increase.

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