, Volume 34, Issue 4, pp 763-775

Thinking about memories for everyday and shocking events: Do people use ease-of-retrieval cues in memory judgments?


Extant research shows that people use retrieval ease, a feeling-based cue, to judge how well they remember life periods. Extending this approach, we investigated the role of retrieval ease in memory judgments for single events. In Experiment 1, participants who were asked to recall many memories of an everyday event (New Year’s Eve) rated retrieval as more difficult and judged their memory as worse than did participants asked to recall only a few memories. In Experiment 2, this ease-of-retrieval effect was found to interact with the shocking character of the remembered event: There was no effect when the event was highly shocking (i.e., learning about the attacks of September 11, 2001), whereas an effect was found when the event was experienced as less shocking (due either to increased distance to “9/11” or to the nonshocking nature of the event itself). Memory vividness accounted for additional variance in memory judgments, indicating an independent contribution of content-based cues in judgments of event memories.

This research was supported by NIMH Grant MH066972 to W.H. We thank Hartmut Blank, Gerd Bohner, Bertram Gawronski, and Walter Hussy for providing valuable comments on earlier drafts of this article. We also extend our gratitude to Marlene Karst, Lynn Kummerfeldt, Kim Rohwer, and Megan Rudesill for their dedicated assistance in data collection and administration, and to Robert Meksin and Birgit Neumann for their support in the preparation of the manuscript. Parts of this research were presented at the 5th Meeting of the Society for Applied Research in Memory and Cognition, held at Aberdeen University in July 2003.
Note—This article was accepted by the previous editorial team, when Colin M. MacLeod was Editor.