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Becoming a Better Person: Temporal Remoteness Biases Autobiographical Memories for Moral Events

Escobedo, Jessica R. and Adolphs, Ralph (2010) Becoming a Better Person: Temporal Remoteness Biases Autobiographical Memories for Moral Events. Emotion, 10 (4). pp. 511-518. ISSN 1528-3542. PMCID PMC2917244.

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Our autobiographical self depends on the differential recollection of our personal past, notably including memories of morally laden events. Whereas both emotion and temporal recency are well known to influence memory, very little is known about how we remember moral events, and in particular about the distribution in time of memories for events that were blameworthy or praiseworthy. To investigate this issue in detail, we collected a novel database of 758 confidential, autobiographical narratives for personal moral events from 100 well-characterized healthy adults. Negatively valenced moral memories were significantly more remote than positively valenced memories, both as measured by the valence of the cue word that evoked the memory as well as by the content of the memory itself. The effect was independent of chronological age, ethnicity, gender or personality, arguing for a general emotional bias in how we construct our moral autobiography.

Item Type:Article
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription CentralArticle
Adolphs, Ralph0000-0002-8053-9692
Additional Information:© 2010 American Psychological Association. Received March 10, 2009. Revision received November 17, 2009. Accepted December 7, 2009. We thank Jessica Stockburger for help in collecting and selecting the memories, Jessica Levine for help with data entry, and Tony Buchanan for help with pilot analyses. This research was supported by a grant from the National Institute of Mental Health to Ralph Adolphs.
Funding AgencyGrant Number
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)UNSPECIFIED
Subject Keywords:moral judgment, autobiographical memory, temporal bias, emotion
Issue or Number:4
PubMed Central ID:PMC2917244
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20100817-135645656
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Official Citation:Becoming a better person: Temporal remoteness biases autobiographical memories for moral events. Escobedo, Jessica R.; Adolphs, Ralph Emotion, Vol 10(4), Aug 2010, 511-518. doi: 10.1037/a0018723
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:19478
Deposited By: Tony Diaz
Deposited On:17 Aug 2010 23:55
Last Modified:03 Oct 2019 01:57

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