Posts tagged with "Association for Psychological Science"

Mommy dearest: Your current relationship with your parent can distort memories of love

June 10, 2019

If “there is no love lost” between you and your mother today, your current relationship actually may distort your recollections of how affectionate she was while you were growing up.

Indeed, as we grow older and our memories fade, we rely on our current assessment of a person to remember how we felt about them in the past, based on findings of research conducted at the University of Southern Mississippi and published by Psych Central. This extends to some of the most central figures in our lives — our parents.

“Memories of the love we felt in childhood toward our parents are among the most precious aspects of autobiographical memory we could think of,” said lead author Dr. Lawrence Patihis, an assistant professor at the university and head of the Memory in Life, Practice, and Law Laboratory there. “Yet our findings suggest that these memories of love are malleable, which is not something we would want to be true.”

He added, “If you change your evaluation of someone, you will likely also change your memory of your emotions towards them and this is true of memory of love towards mothers in childhood.”.

For the study’s first experiment, Patihis and coauthors Cristobal S. Cruz and Mario E. Herrera recruited 301 online participants. Some wrote about recent examples of their mother’s positive attributes, such as showing warmth, generosity, competence and giving good guidance. Others wrote about recent examples of their mother’s lack of these attributes. Participants in one comparison group wrote about a teacher and participants in another comparison group received no writing prompt at all.

The participants then completed a questionnaire—the “Memory of Love Towards Parents Questionnaire”—assessing how they currently thought about their mother’s attributes, including her warmth and generosity.

The survey was geared to assess ten measures of love that the respondents could recall experiencing toward their mothers at different ages. Questions included “During the whole year when you were in first grade, how often on average did you feel love toward your mother?” and “During the whole year when you were in first grade, how strong on average was your love toward your mother?”

The MLPQ also measured participants’ current feelings of love for their mothers, according to the researchers. The participants completed the questionnaires again two weeks and four weeks after the initial session.

The results showed that the writing prompts influenced participants’ current feelings and their memories of love. Specifically, participants who were prompted to write about their mother’s positive attributes tended to recall stronger feelings of love for their mother in first, sixth, and ninth grade compared with participants who wrote about their mother’s lack of positive attributes.

The researchers plan to expand this research to explore whether the same effects emerge for other emotions and target individuals. They’re also exploring whether successes in life might similarly alter childhood memories of emotion. In addition, the researchers hope to discover whether these effects might influence later behavior.

“The significance of this research lies in the new knowledge that our current evaluations of people can be lowered if we choose to focus on the negative, and this can have a side effect: The diminishing of positive aspects of childhood memories,” Patihis said. “We wonder if wide-ranging reappraisals of parents, perhaps in life or in therapy, could lead to intergenerational heartache and estrangement. Understanding this subtle type of memory distortion is necessary if we want to prevent it.”

The study was published in Clinical Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

Research contact: l.patithis@usm.edu

You are more likeable than you think

September 28, 2018

When Sally Field accepted the Oscar for Best Actress in 1984 for her role in Places in the Heart, she blurted out, “You like me, right now, you like me!”—radiating her thrill at being validated by the members of her industry.

Most of us don’t get that type of affirmation on a world stage—however, a study published in September by the Association for Psychological Science suggests that the people you meet probably like you more than you think.

“Our research suggests that accurately estimating how much a new conversation[al] partner likes us — even though this a fundamental part of social life and something we have ample practice with — is a much more difficult task than we imagine,”  co-authors Erica Boothby, a postdoctoral researcher at Cornell University; and Gus Cooney, a social psychologist at Harvard University, told CNBC in a recent interview.

In the first of a series of experiments, the researchers provided pairs of students with ice-breakers for five-minute conversations. The students then independently answered questions about how much they liked their conversational partner and how much they thought their conversational partner liked them.

It turns out the students consistently underestimated how well-liked they were, a phenomenon the researchers call the “liking gap.” The shyer someone was, the more they sold themselves short, the network news outlet reports.

They found further evidence in real-world settings and over long periods of time. Freshman at Yale University underestimated how much other residents of their dorms liked them for months throughout the school year. The gaps only disappeared by the end of the second semester.

How can this gap be explained? It may stem in part from the fact that people tend to hold themselves to high standards. The researchers posit that when you’re critical of yourself, you can project that criticism onto others.

“We’re self-protectively pessimistic and do not want to assume the other likes us before we find out if that’s really true,” says a third co-author, Yale University Psychology Professor Margaret S. Clark, told CNBC.

This instinct actually could be protective—and even beneficial, the researchers believe. They note, “People’s harsh inner critic can be functional when it comes to self-improvement.” For instance, if you tell a joke and sense that your audience has lost interest by the time you get to the punch line, the next time you tell it you might hasten the delivery and get a few more laughs.

But if self-doubt inhibits you from socializing, you may want to remind yourself that other people are not likely to be as hard on yourself as you are. That could give you the confidence you need to do some networking. After all, “conversations have the power,” the authors write, “to turn strangers into friends, coffee dates into marriages, and interviews into jobs.”

Research contact: ericajboothby@gmail.com