Itis possible to examine whether self-threatening memories are recoverable bytesting participants’ recognition memory for different forms of feedback.
Recognition memory is sensitive to theexistence of material in memory that is hard to recall (Shiffrin and Steyvers,1997). This form of memory is based onfeelings of familiarity and does not require the elaborate traversal ofpathways that were formed when feedback was processed into memory (Yonelinas,2002). Therefore, if self-threateningfeedback is encoded into memory, as suggested by the Mnemic Neglect Model, thenrecognition tasks should verify this. Greenet al.
(2008) tested recognition memory within the mnemic neglect paradigm. After the free recall task, participants reada set of behaviours comprised of the original feedback given at the beginningof the experiment as well as a set of new behaviours, which the participantshad not read before. Each participantwas instructed to identify whether the behaviours were old (seen before) or new(not seen before).
According to the MnemicNeglect Model, there should be similar levels of accurate recognition for bothself-threatening and other forms of central trait feedback within this task. In contrast, a perceptual-defence perspectivewould predict inferior recognition for self-threatening feedback, as thistheory suggests retrieval of these memories should be impossible. The study found that recognition memory forself-affirming (88%), other-relevant (88%) and self-threatening feedback (86%)was almost uniform.
These resultssuggest that self-threatening feedback is encoded into memory and processed ina way that makes it harder to recall, as these memories could be retrieved witha powerful cue (i.e. the behaviour itself), thus supporting the Mnemic Neglect Model.
ProcessingInteferenceTheMnemic Neglect Model’s cognitive assertions can further be tested byinterfering with an individuals’ ability to think/process as they readdifferent forms of feedback (Sedikides et al., 2016). This interference negates the processingadvantage for other forms of central trait feedback, as the mental processingresources vital for forming multiple retrieval routes are lost (Sedikides , 2009). However, becauseself-threatening feedback does not acquire a wealth of cognitive resources,processing for this feedback should be uninhibited.
Therefore, if the MNE is caused bydifferential processing, the effect should be lost in circumstances wheremental processing is interfered with at encoding. This has been tested in two ways within theliterature. Time Restrictions. Experimentally imposing aminimal processing time restricts a person’s ability to think and processinformation (Schroeder, 2014), as well as being a determinant of poor recall(Story, 1998). Thus, according to the MnemicNeglect Model, imposing restrictions on feedback reading time should eliminatethe MNE, as possible processing advantages for other forms of central traitfeedback are eliminated.
Sedikides andGreen (2000) tested this prediction. Theresearchers either gave participants eight seconds (ample time) or two seconds(limited time) to read each behaviour within the mnemic neglect paradigm. The present research found that recall ofother forms of central trait feedback decreased from the ample time (44%) tothe limited time (28%) condition. However,recall for self-threatening feedback was essentially the same in both ample(33%) and limited (32%) time conditions. Therefore, the MNE was evident in the ample time but not in the limitedtime condition, supporting the Mnemic Neglect Model.Imposing load.
Imposing load duringprocessing causes a reduction in available cognitive resources and results inpoor recall (Camos & Portrat, 2015). According to the Mnemic Neglect Model, this interference should restrictthe processing advantages for other forms of central trait feedback andeliminate the MNE. This idea was testedby Wells (2012). In his experiment, theresearcher paired a cognitive load manipulation with the mnemic neglectparadigm. Half of the participants weretold to learn a six-digit number prior to presentation of the behaviouralfeedback (high load condition). Theother half completed the paradigm without the load manipulation (no loadcondition). The Mnemic Neglect Model wassupported by the findings of this research.
In the no load condition, participants recalled self-threateningfeedback (29%) poorly compared to other forms of central trait feedback (41%). However, in the high load condition,participants recalled self-threatening feedback (26%) better than other formsof central trait feedback (19%). Hence,the MNE was evinced in the high load condition, but reversed in the low loadcondition.