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J Pers Soc Psychol. 2013 Nov;105(5):852-72. doi: 10.1037/a0033482. Epub 2013 Jul 8.

The role of semantic self-perceptions in temporal distance perceptions toward autobiographical events: the semantic congruence model.

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Institute for Psychology, Humboldt-Universit├Ąt zu Berlin.


Why do some autobiographical events feel as if they happened yesterday, whereas others feel like ancient history? Such temporal distance perceptions have surprisingly little to do with actual calendar time distance. Instead, psychologists have found that people typically perceive positive autobiographical events as overly recent, while perceiving negative events as overly distant. The origins of this temporal distance bias have been sought in self-enhancement strivings and mood congruence between autobiographical events and chronic mood. As such, past research exclusively focused on the evaluative features of autobiographical events, while neglecting semantic features. To close this gap, we introduce a semantic congruence model. Capitalizing on the Big Two self-perception dimensions, Study 1 showed that high semantic congruence between recalled autobiographical events and trait self-perceptions render the recalled events subjectively recent. Specifically, interpersonally warm (competent) individuals perceived autobiographical events reflecting warmth (competence) as relatively recent, but warm (competent) individuals did not perceive events reflecting competence (warmth) as relatively recent. Study 2 found that conscious perceptions of congruence mediate these effects. Studies 3 and 4 showed that neither mood congruence nor self-enhancement account for these results. Study 5 extended the results from the Big Two to the Big Five self-perception dimensions, while affirming the independence of the semantic congruence model from evaluative influences.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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