Journal of Behavioral Medicine

, Volume 41, Issue 1, pp 130–137 | Cite as

“Memory bias” for recall of experiences during initial weight loss is affected by subsequent weight loss outcome

  • Kathryn M. Ross
  • Rena R. Wing


Research has suggested that memories of mood, emotions, and behaviors are not purely unbiased retrieval, but more similar to reconstructions based on current opinions, positive or negative experiences associated with the memory, and how a person believes they would have felt, thought, or acted. We investigated this memory bias in 66 adult participants with overweight/obesity who rated their mood, emotions, and behaviors during a 12-week, Internet-based behavioral weight loss program and later recalled these ratings at Month 3 (immediate post-test) and Month 12 (follow-up). At Month 3, participants recalled the intervention more positively than reported previously, p = .010, but reported remembering the intervention more negatively at the Month 12 follow-up, p = .004. Memory bias was associated with initial weight loss and regain, ps < .05, such that participants who lost more weight at Month 3 remembered their mood, emotions, and behaviors during intervention more positively, and those who regained more weight at Month 12, more negatively. Future research should investigate whether this bias is associated with willingness to re-engage with intervention.


Obesity Behavioral weight management Weight regain Memory Retrospective data collection 



This study was funded by the Lifespan Corporation and by the National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Diabetes Digestive and Kidney Diseases under awards F32DK100069 and R21DK109205, awarded to Kathryn M. Ross.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

Intervention content used in the parent study has been licensed to commercial partners by Rena R. Wing. Kathryn M. Ross and Rena R. Wing were employees of Lifespan at the time of initial intervention provision and data collection.

Human and animal rights and Informed consent

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Clinical and Health Psychology, College of Public Health and Health ProfessionsUniversity of FloridaGainesvilleUSA
  2. 2.Department of Psychiatry and Human BehaviorAlpert Medical School of Brown University and The Miriam HospitalProvidenceUSA

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