How your personality changes your memory

Kim Hookem-Smith
Yahoo Lifestyle12 April 2012

What you remember could be down to your personality and gender, according to a new study by researchers at the Universities of Alberta, Canada and Illinois in the US.

According to the research, good and bad memories are filtered through personality traits, meaning that your memory of an event could be different to others’ recollections.

[Related story: How to improve your memory]

The study, which involved 100 men and women, found that those who were unhappy were more likely to remember things negatively. These negative memories then made their low mood worse.

The participants answered a questionnaire about themselves, which enabled researchers to class them according to their personalities.

They found that those with highly neurotic personalities had a tendency to dwell on negative emotions, particularly when stressed. In contrast, extroverts involved in the study were more likely to remember positive life events than negative ones. Unsurprisingly in both men and women, negative experiences had a depressing effect, suggesting learning to remember differently could help people deal with depression.

The biggest factor affecting memory was found to be gender. Men and women have different ways of processing and responding to memories.  Men were found to respond well to making a conscious effort to view their memories more positively, but did not suffer from a drop in mood if they tried to ignore the bad memories. By contrast, women who suppressed negative memories were more likely to suffer from a low mood.

“Being more outgoing, interrupting rumination and using reappraisal seems to work best for men and women as a strategy for dealing with negative memories and cherishing the positive ones,” said postdoctoral researcher Sanda Dolcos.

This advice may be particularly helpful for women, who tend to remember more negatively and are more prone to depression and anxiety-related problems.

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