Infectious Cognition: Risk Perception Affects Socially Shared Retrieval-Induced Forgetting of Medical Information

Alin Coman, Jessica N. Berry

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


When speakers selectively retrieve previously learned information, listeners often concurrently, and covertly, retrieve their memories of that information. This concurrent retrieval typically enhances memory for mentioned information (the rehearsal effect) and impairs memory for unmentioned but related information (socially shared retrieval-induced forgetting, SSRIF), relative to memory for unmentioned and unrelated information. Building on research showing that anxiety leads to increased attention to threat-relevant information, we explored whether concurrent retrieval is facilitated in high-anxiety real-world contexts. Participants first learned category-exemplar facts about meningococcal disease. Following a manipulation of perceived risk of infection (low vs. high risk), they listened to a mock radio show in which some of the facts were selectively practiced. Final recall tests showed that the rehearsal effect was equivalent between the two risk conditions, but SSRIF was significantly larger in the high-risk than in the low-risk condition. Thus, the tendency to exaggerate consequences of news events was found to have deleterious consequences.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1965-1971
Number of pages7
JournalPsychological Science
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Psychology


  • cognitive processes
  • forgetting
  • memory
  • open data
  • open materials
  • social interaction


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