Remembering in Conversations: The Social Sharing and Reshaping of Memories

Annual Review of Psychology

Vol. 63:55-79 (Volume publication date January 2012)
First published online as a Review in Advance on September 27, 2011


People constantly talk about past experiences. Burgeoning psychological research has examined the role of communication in remembering by placing rememberers in conversational settings. In reviewing this work, we first discuss the benefits of collaborative remembering (transactive memory and collaborative facilitation) and its costs (collaborative inhibition, information sampling biases, and audience tuning). We next examine how conversational remembering affects subsequent memory. Here, we address influences on listeners' memory through social contagion, resistance to such influences, and then retrieval/reexposure effects on either speaker or listener, with a focus on retrieval-induced forgetting. Extending the perspective beyond single interactions, we consider work that has explored how the above effects can spread across networks of several individuals. We also explore how a speaker's motive to form a shared reality with listeners can moderate conversational effects on memory. Finally, we discuss how these various conversational effects may promote the formation of collective memories.