Changing Current Appraisals of Mothers Leads to Changes in Childhood Memories of Love Toward Mothers

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False memories in therapy have previously been identified as problematic, but memory-of-emotion distortions have been underdiscussed in this context. Past research has suggested that cognitive reappraisals are associated with changes in memory of emotions. We investigated whether these findings would generalize to an important emotion (love), target (mothers), and time (childhood). In samples of adults, we manipulated current appraisals of mothers to examine the effect on memory of love felt in childhood toward mothers. In Experiment 1, we found significant differences between appraisal conditions on memory of love—effects that persisted for 4 weeks. In Experiment 2, the effect of reappraisal on memory of love replicated with a pretest–posttest experiment. Pretest current feelings of love were biased when recalled after the experiment. Reevaluating parents, in therapy or elsewhere, may result in memory distortion of important aspects of autobiographical memory.

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Clinical Psychological Science

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