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J Pers Soc Psychol. 2013 Jan;104(1):164-79. doi: 10.1037/a0030384. Epub 2012 Oct 22.

On the directive function of episodic memories in people's lives: a look at romantic relationships.

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Department of Psychology, University of Quebec at Montreal, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.


We argue that episodic memories have an active and directive function with respect to a number of relational outcomes. In line with self-determination theory, it is expected that the satisfaction of 3 needs (autonomy, competence, relatedness) in couple-related memories facilitates the quality of romantic relationships and their development. Results of 4 studies support this contention. Study 1 showed that need satisfaction in couple-related memories was associated with relationship quality, even after controlling for other important relational constructs. Study 2 underscored the context-dependent aspect of the directive function of episodic memories. Need satisfaction in couple-related memories was found to be associated with partner relationship quality but not with friendship quality, whereas need satisfaction in friend-related memories was associated with friendship quality but not with partner relationship quality. Study 3 showed that couple-related memories contributed independently to each partner's perceptions of relationship quality, that is, both the rememberer and the partner. Study 4 showed the long-term directive function of episodic memories. Need satisfaction in couple-related memories positively and negatively predicted increases in relationship quality and the likelihood of a breakup over a 1-year period, respectively. This directive function of memories was examined along with the self function of memories (self-enhancement, self-protection) and shown to be complementary. We also examined the stability of need satisfaction in couple-related memories over time and investigated this stability as a function of whether the partners had broken up or not over the year. Overall, the findings suggest that episodic memories play an important role in romantic relationships.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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