Retrospective Evaluations of Sequences: Testing the Predictions of a Memory-Based Analysis

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Abstract

Retrospective evaluation (RE) of event sequences is known to be biased in various ways. The present paper presents a series of studies that examined the suggestion that the moments that are the most accessible in memory at the point of RE contribute to these biases. As predicted by this memory-based analysis, Experiment 1 showed that pleasantness ratings of word lists were biased by the presentation position of a negative item and by how easy the negative information was to retrieve. Experiment 2 ruled out the hypothesis that these findings were due to the dual nature of the task called upon. Experiment 3 further manipulated the memorability of the negative items – and corresponding changes in RE were as predicted. Finally, Experiment 4 extended the findings to more complex stimuli involving event narratives. Overall, the results suggest that assessments were adjusted based on the retrieval of the most readily available information.

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