Date of Award

Spring 2020

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Committee Chair

Elena Stepanova

Committee Chair School


Committee Member 2

Lawrence Patihis

Committee Member 2 School


Committee Member 3

Tammy Greer

Committee Member 3 School


Committee Member 4

Hans Stadthagen-Gonzalez

Committee Member 4 School



Are people’s memories of their most intimate moments prone to memory distortions? There is some limited research that has found that to be the case—memories of past consensual sexual encounters have been prone to memory biases. However, no past research has looked into whether memory of emotions toward a person’s first consensual sexual encounter are malleable. A combination of reconstructive memory and appraisal theories would predict that memory for emotions are prone to distortions based on the changes in current appraisals of the event and/or person. In the current experiment, we investigated the effects of current reappraisals of participants’ first consensual partner on the memory of emotions felt during the first 24 hours following participants’ first consensual sexual encounter. We predicted positive reappraisals would lead to increases in memory of positive emotion (e.g., feeling happy, joy, and excited), compared to negative reappraisals; and that negative reappraisals would lead to increases in memories of negative emotions (e.g., feeling ashamed, angry, and embarrassed). We found positive reappraisals of a person’s first partner did lead to higher ratings on memory of joy, compared to a neutral condition. Exploratory analyses revealed that when controlling for individual differences (emotion regulation strategies; current relationship status with first partner), positive reappraisals appeared to lead to increases in memory of happiness and joy (felt during the first 24 hours of their encounter). We also found males reported higher memory of positive emotions of their first consensual encounter, compared to females.