Mnemonic convergence in social networks: The emergent properties of cognition at a collective level

Alin Coman, Ida Momennejad, Rae D. Drach, Andra Geana

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

73 Scopus citations


The development of shared memories, beliefs, and norms is a fundamental characteristic of human communities. These emergent outcomes are thought to occur owing to a dynamic system of information sharing and memory updating, which fundamentally depends on communication. Here we report results on the formation of collective memories in laboratory-created communities. We manipulated conversational network structure in a series of real-time, computer-mediated interactions in fourteen 10-member communities. The results show that mnemonic convergence, measured as the degree of overlap among community members' memories, is influenced by both individual-level information-processing phenomena and by the conversational social network structure created during conversational recall. By studying laboratory-created social networks, we show how large-scale social phenomena (i.e., collective memory) can emerge out of microlevel local dynamics (i.e.,mnemonic reinforcement and suppression effects). The social-interactionist approach proposed herein points to optimal strategies for spreading information in social networks and provides a framework for measuring and forging collective memories in communities of individuals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)8171-8176
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number29
StatePublished - Jul 19 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General


  • Collective memories
  • Emergent phenomena
  • Mnemonic reinforcement effect
  • Social networks
  • Socially-shared retrieval-induced forgetting


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