Sensitive maintenance: A cognitive process underlying individual differences in memory for threatening information

Faculty/Professorship: Educational Psychology  
Author(s): Peters, Jan H. ; Hock, Michael  ; Krohne, Heinz Walter
Editors: Katz, Daniel
Title of the Journal: Journal of personality and social psychology
ISSN: 0022-3514
Corporate Body: American Psychological Association
Publisher Information: Washington, DC
Year of publication: 2012
Volume: 102
Issue: 1
Pages: 200-213
Language(s): English
Dispositional styles of coping with threat influence memory for threatening information. In particular, sensitizers excel over repressors in their memory for threatening information after long retention intervals, but not after short ones. We therefore suggested that sensitizers, but not repressors, employ active maintenance processes during the retention interval to selectively retain threatening material. Sensitive maintenance was studied in 2 experiments in which participants were briefly exposed to threatening and nonthreatening pictures (Experiment 1, N = 128) or words (Experiment 2, N = 145). Following, we administered unannounced recognition tests before and after an intervening task that generated either high or low cognitive load, assuming that high cognitive load would impede sensitizers' memory maintenance of threatening material. Supporting our hypotheses, the same pattern of results was obtained in both experiments: Under low cognitive load, sensitizers forgot less threat material than repressors did; no such differences were observed under high cognitive load.
Type: Article
Year of publication: 8. March 2013