Autobiographical memories (AMs) are personal memories that individuals have of different events and experiences that occurred in their lifetimes. Evidence suggests that men retrieve AMs differently than women. Some studies have shown that individuals with extroverted personalities tend to retrieve more positive AMs than negative AMs. In contrast, individuals with introverted personalities and traits, such as neuroticism, retrieve more negative AMs. However, there are few studies that have examined how AM appraisal or suppression, specifically related to gender, affects emotional regulation (ER) and mood state. Because women are far more likely than men to develop negative mood states such as depression and anxiety, Ekaterina Denkova of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Alberta in Canada led a study to determine if the appraisal or suppression of positive or negative AMs would influence affect and further risk for affective disorders.
For her study, Denkova and colleagues assessed 71 emotionally healthy adults as they retrieved AMs using questionnaires. The researchers evaluated the personality types of the participants and assessed their mood states after they recalled AMs. The study revealed that regardless of gender, participants with extroverted personalities recalled more positive AMs than those with introverted personalities. Men and women with introverted personalities were more likely to recall negative AMs, and women in this group used suppression to cope with the AMs. This behavior directly affected their postretrieval mood states, resulting in negative affect. Additionally, men who recalled positive AMs tended to reappraise their memories more than women, resulting in an overall positive affect that surpassed those of the women with positive AMs. Denkova believes that these findings provide insight into the gender and personality differences in the retrieval of AMs, which directly influences an individual’s risk for affective disorders. She added, “The present findings have relevance for therapeutic intervention (e.g., training in positive thinking and/or training to reappraise) in patients with affective disorders, who tend to focus on negative personal experiences and thus maintain a negative affective state.”
Denkova, E., Dolcos, S., Dolcos, F. (2012, January 16). Reliving Emotional Personal Memories: Affective Biases Linked to Personality and Sex-Related Differences. Emotion. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0026809
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