Social Transmission of Memory: Societal Implications

Saturday, February 18, 2017: 2:00 PM-2:15 PM
Room 308 (Hynes Convention Center)
The act of remembering is influenced by the social dynamics surrounding it. Using principles developed in over 100 years of experimental research on individual memory ability, we investigate social influences on memory. This paradigm shift opens up the opportunity to ask how remembering by a group reshapes the memory of each member as well as of the group as a whole, and how flow of information in social settings can provide insights into issues related to education and public health. Contrary to intuition, people actually recall less when working in groups than when working alone, a phenomenon called collaborative inhibition. Along with such group forgetting, members also incorporate into their own memories information that others remembered, a process called memory contagion. The opposing consequences of forgetting and memory contagion have implications for education because group study practices common in classrooms reflect not only the benefits but also costs of group recall. In larger social networks that contain a variety of partners, contagion patterns shift. Here, an individual's memory for new information is influenced not only by what their partners remember but also indirectly by what their partners' partners remember. This extended contagion of information in networks looks similar to patterns of contagion for behaviors such as smoking. A study of social remembering then also has implications for understanding real-world contagion of health-related behaviors.
Randi Martin, Rice University
Jay Labov, National Academy of Sciences
Suparna Rajaram, Stony Brook University
Social Transmission of Memory: Societal Implications