The Pain Was Greater If It Will Happen Again: The Effect of Anticipated Continuation on Retrospective Discomfort
Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, Vol. 140, No. 1, pp. 63-75
13 Pages Posted: 24 Dec 2009 Last revised: 18 Jun 2011
Date Written: 2011
Across seven laboratory studies and one field study, we demonstrate that people remember an unpleasant experience as more aversive when they expect this experience to return, than when they have no such expectation. Our results indicate that this effect results from people’s tendency to brace for unpleasant experiences. Specifically, when faced with the anticipated return of the experience, people prepare for the worst, leading them to remember the initial experience as more aversive. This bracing can be reduced by either limiting people’s self-regulatory resources or by denying them the time to brace. These results indicate that people’s tendency to remember aversive experiences as less unpleasant than they had actually been (as demonstrated in prior research) does not necessarily imply that people will be willing to re-engage in these experiences - as the anticipation of repeating the experience may counter-act the initial memory bias.
Keywords: memory, bracing, expectations, aversive experiences
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