Nav: Home

Past misdeeds haunt relationships when they feel recent, study finds

December 05, 2016

If a partner's past transgression feels like it happened yesterday, even if it didn't, you are more likely to remember it during new, unrelated arguments, according to a new study.

A researcher at the University of Waterloo's Department of Psychology co-authored the work with a colleague at Wilfrid Laurier University. The researchers found that even if no one mentions the transgressions during arguments, just thinking about them could be enough to have a detrimental effect on the relationship.

"When memories feel closer to the present, those memories are construed as more relevant to the present and more representative of the relationship," said Kassandra Cortes, a doctoral candidate at Waterloo and co-author of the study with Professor Anne Wilson at Laurier. "If one bad memory feels recent, a person will also be more likely to remember other past slights, and attach more importance to them."

Bringing up past grudges during a new conflict can make arguing fairly challenging. Researchers call this kitchen sinking, since partners throw everything but the kitchen sink into the argument. But not mentioning those memories is not the solution either. The research indicates that just thinking of past transgressions during conflicts was an equally strong, and in some cases stronger, predictor of poor relationship outcomes than bringing them up. A person may feel confused and frustrated if they do not understand why their partner has become so upset over something so seemingly minor.

Cortes and Wilson found that those who reported thinking about past transgressions during a recent conflict said they reacted to the current conflict more destructively, reported having more frequent and intense conflicts with their partners and felt worse about their relationships in general.

The research found that people with high attachment anxiety -- those who worry their partners don't love and care for them --are especially likely to think of past transgressions in new, unrelated contexts. To them, past misdeeds tend to feel closer to the present than for those who are more secure in their relationships.

"It may be useful for people to resolve an issue with their partner when it occurs, rather than pretending to forgive their partner or just letting it go when they are clearly upset. This way, the issue may be less likely to resurface in the future."

The study appears in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. Exploring ways in which people can prevent bad memories from resurfacing is a topic for future research for the team.
-end-


University of Waterloo

Related Memories Articles:

A new discovery: How our memories stabilize while we sleep
Scientists at the Center for Interdisciplinary Research in Biology (CNRS/Coll├Ęge de France/INSERM) have shown that delta waves emitted while we sleep are not generalized periods of silence during which the cortex rests, as has been described for decades in the scientific literature.
How memories form and fade
Caltech researchers identify the neural processes that make some memories fade rapidly while other memories persist over time.
Firework memories
Recently Weizmann Institute scientists succeeded in recording these rapid bursts of activity -- called 'hippocampal ripples' -- in the human brain, and they were able to demonstrate their importance as a neuronal mechanism underlying the engraving of new memories and their subsequent recall.
Your nose knows when it comes to stronger memories
Memories are stronger when the original experiences are accompanied by unpleasant odors, a team of researchers has found.
Proof it's possible to enhance or suppress memories
Boston University neuroscientist Steve Ramirez and collaborators have published a new paper showing memories are pliable if you know which regions of the brain's hippocampus to stimulate, which could someday enable personalized treatment for people with PTSD, depression and anxiety.
What makes memories stronger?
A team of scientists at NeuroElectronics Research Flanders (NERF- empowered by imec, KU Leuven and VIB) found that highly demanding and rewarding experiences result in stronger memories.
Like old photographs, memories fade over time
Past events are often vividly recollected. However, it remains unclear how the qualities of memories are reconstructed.
More than just memories: a new role for the hippocampus during learning
Without an intact hippocampus, forming new memories is impossible. Researchers from Arizona State University and Stanford University found an equally important role for the hippocampus: feeding information to brain areas responsible for learning.
Making moves and memories, are they connected?
Researchers report the first direct evidence that the cerebellum does more than just control muscle activity.
Lateral inhibition keeps similar memories apart
Our brains are able to store memories of very similar events as distinct memories.
More Memories News and Memories Current Events

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Rethinking Anger
Anger is universal and complex: it can be quiet, festering, justified, vengeful, and destructive. This hour, TED speakers explore the many sides of anger, why we need it, and who's allowed to feel it. Guests include psychologists Ryan Martin and Russell Kolts, writer Soraya Chemaly, former talk radio host Lisa Fritsch, and business professor Dan Moshavi.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#538 Nobels and Astrophysics
This week we start with this year's physics Nobel Prize awarded to Jim Peebles, Michel Mayor, and Didier Queloz and finish with a discussion of the Nobel Prizes as a way to award and highlight important science. Are they still relevant? When science breakthroughs are built on the backs of hundreds -- and sometimes thousands -- of people's hard work, how do you pick just three to highlight? Join host Rachelle Saunders and astrophysicist, author, and science communicator Ethan Siegel for their chat about astrophysics and Nobel Prizes.