Summary: Adults with attachment anxiety are more likely to recall details incorrectly, especially when they can see the person imparting information, than those with other personality types such as neuroticism or avoidance. ‘attachment.
Source: Southern Methodist University
According to a new study, adults who frequently worry about being rejected or abandoned by loved ones are more likely to have false memories when they can see who is passing on the information.
The authors, Nathan Hudson of SMU and William J. Chopik of Michigan State University, found that adults with attachment anxiety tend to remember details incorrectly more often than people with attachment anxiety. other personality types, such as neuroticism or attachment avoidance.
However, attachment-anxious adults were more likely to get the facts wrong only when they could see the person relaying the information — not when they read or heard the same information, a study published in the journal reveals. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
Some study participants were randomly assigned to watch a 20-minute video of a woman talking about her tumultuous breakup with a man or another topic — like a shopping spree or the ecology of California’s wetlands. . Other participants got the same information from audio alone or by reading a transcript. All groups took a memory test immediately after receiving the information, regardless of how it was conveyed.
Hudson, a professor of psychology at SMU (Southern Methodist University), said seeing the speaker could be a memory-distorting factor, as people with high attachment anxiety tend to be hypervigilant in monitoring facial expressions. . They also tend to misjudge the perceived emotional states of others, he said.
“We think that people with high attachment anxiety are probably intensively analyzing what’s being said in the videos we’ve shown them,” Hudson said.
“Their own thoughts and feelings about the video may have been ‘mixed’ with the actual content of the video in their minds. Thus, they experienced false memories when we gave them a test regarding the content of the video .
These findings, Hudson said, illustrate how our personalities can potentially affect our memory abilities.
“It’s important to understand that our brains don’t store textual audio or video clips of events that happen to us,” he said.
“Instead, our brain stores snippets of information about our experiences, and when we try to recall a memory, it combines stored information and makes its best guess of what happened.”
“As you can imagine, this process can be quite error-prone,” he said.
A potentially intense feeling, attachment anxiety relates to how people form relationships. People with high attachment anxiety often believe they are unworthy of love and attention, intensely fear that other people will reject them, and spend a lot of time overanalyzing their relationships, Hudson explained.
Usually, attachment anxiety develops in childhood due to an inconsistent relationship with a parent or caregiver. It often continues into adulthood.
Previous research has shown that attachment styles can predict the likelihood that a person will forget certain details, especially those related to relationships. But this study from the Journal of Personality is one of the first to show that attachment anxiety actively makes people more likely to mistakenly remember events or details that never happened.
Attachment anxiety leads to false memories, not just about relationships
Hudson and Chopik, an associate professor of psychology at Michigan State University, arrived at the conclusions by conducting three separate studies with college students. The number of study participants ranged from 200 participants to over 650.
Studies of these participants have shown that people with high attachment anxiety were most likely to have false memories when watching a video of someone, whether the subject is talking about a breakup love or something completely impersonal. But the study finds they were more accurate in their memories when they read or heard the same details than people with a lower attachment anxiety score.
Chopik and Hudson compared adults with attachment anxiety with people who had one of the Big Five personality traits, such as neuroticism or extraversion. Additionally, they were compared to people with high attachment avoidance rankings. Avoidants avoid relationships as a way to stay disengaged from emotional closeness and potential hurt.
The researchers used the 9 items Experiences in Close Relationships – Relationship-Structures to assess the students’ attachment style. Anyone not in a relationship was asked to reflect on their last romantic relationship or relationships in general.
Those with high levels of attachment anxiety tended to strongly agree with statements such as “I often worry that my romantic partner doesn’t really care about me.” Meanwhile, people who strongly avoided attachment strongly agreed with statements such as “I’d rather not show my romantic partner how I feel deep inside.”
How attachment-anxious adults can break the cycle
Hudson said students who self-identify as having attachment anxiety can derive immediate personal benefit from this study by being aware of interpersonal situations where they are likely to have false memories — for example, during online classes or in person, chatting with classmates and friends. or watch political debates.
Supplementing information received in face-to-face encounters with reading and listening activities may likely improve memory accuracy for people with an attachment-anxious relationship style.
Hudson added that most people want to temper their attachment anxiety, and interventions may be able to help them do this, leading to improved well-being. His research suggests that switching to a more secure attachment style can also positively affect memory processes – and he suggests that future studies explore this.
About this memory and personality research news
Original research: Access closed.
“Seeing you reminds me of things that never happened: attachment anxiety predicts false memories when people can see the communicator” by Nathan Hudson et al. personality diary
Seeing you reminds me of things that never happened: attachment anxiety predicts false memories when people can see the communicator
Previous research suggests that attachment avoidance is strongly linked to memory errors of omission, such as forgetting information or events that have happened.
Moreover, these avoidance-related errors of omission are strongest for relational stimuli (e.g., avoidants have trouble remembering relational words, but not neutral words).
Conversely, a body of emerging studies has linked attachment anxiety to memory errors made, such as misremembering events that never actually happened.
This article describes three studies (NOTs = 204, 651, 547) which reproduce the correlation between attachment anxiety and false memories. Additionally, the present studies experimentally explored the boundary conditions under which anxiety might predict false memories.
The results indicated that attachment anxiety predicted false memories only when participants could see a video of another person conveying information, but not when reading a text transcript of the same information or when listening to audio only.
This is consistent with previous studies that suggest that individuals with high attachment anxiety are hypervigilant to the emotional expressions of others and may use them to make incorrect inferences (which potentially become falsely coded in memory).