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J Clin Epidemiol. 1994 May;47(5):555-64.

Does mood-congruence or causal search govern recall bias? A test of life event recall.

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  • 1Columbia University School of Public Health New York, NY 10032, USA.


Recall bias has been hypothesized to occur as a function of mood congruence or causal-search related mechanisms. This study tested whether either mechanism related to recall of stressful life events over a year. Respondents consisted of 136 cases suffering from chronic facial pain and 131 acquaintance controls. After reporting life events for 1 year at monthly intervals, respondents attempted to recall these same events at year-end. Mood and likelihood of engaging in causal search were also ascertained at year-end. Results showed no effect of mood congruence or causal search on recall of event occurrence. However, mood did influence subjective appraisal of those events that were recalled. In addition, a significant mood-related memory deficit was detected. Findings indicate that mood-related memory deficit may reduce effect sizes artifactually. Furthermore, when assessing effects of recall bias, recall of event occurrence must be considered separately from subjective appraisal of event characteristics.

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