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Event memory: the effects of processing objectives and time delay on memory for social action sequences, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology


The memorial representations of events that result from different types of goal-directed cognition are conceptualized on the basis of the general model of information processing proposed by Wyer and Srull (1980, 1984). In a test of this conceptualization, subjects read a passage describing the events that took place at a cocktail party. They were told either (a) to form an impression of the party and the events that occurred, (b) to empathize with the person from whose perspective the passage was written, or (c) to remember the information presented in a way that would allow them to reproduce it. The stimulus passage contained two target events, each consisting of actions that were either described chronologically or in reverse order, and were either presented together or were separated by other unrelated material. After either a short or a long delay, subjects recalled the information they read in the order it came to mind. Finally, subjects were given the individual event actions and told to place them in the order they were presented. The actions comprising target events were generally more likely to be recalled together and in chronological order when subjects had learned about them with either an impression formation or an empathy objective than when they had read about them with the goal of remembering them. However, orderings of these actions were affected by task objectives only after a long delay. The effect of task objectives on the order of recalling the events themselves showed a quite different pattern; for example, subjects with an empathy objective were most likely to recall the last target event presented before the first one after a long delay, whereas subjects with an impression objective were least likely to do so. The proposed model provided a reasonable account of these and other effects of task objectives on memory for events and the actions comprising them.




Galen Bodenhausen

Date Published



Bodenhausen, Galen. 1985. Event memory: the effects of processing objectives and time delay on memory for social action sequences. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 49(2): 301-316.


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