The role of arousal in memory for conversation




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Memory Cognition 1982 Vol 10 4 308 317 The role of arousal in memory for conversation BRIAN MacWHINNEY Carnegie Mellon University Pittsburgh Pennsylvania 15213 and JANICE M KEENAN and PETER REINKE University of Denver Denver Colorado 80210 In the first experimental study of memory for natural conversation Keenan MacWhinney and Mayhew 1977 found that even after 30 h subjects had extremely good recognition memory for the exact wording of statements that contained information about a speaker s intentions beliefs and his relations with the listener Such sentences were said to be high in interactional content One possible interpretation of the results of Keenan et al is that it is the immediate affective response to an utterance rather than its interactional content that increases its memorability In the present study the strong relationship between interactional content and memory found by Keenan et al was replicated Subjects showed excellent recognition memory for high interactional content statements from a conversation even after a 72 h interval However there was very little relationship between arousal as determined by subjects electrodermal response EDR and subsequent memory Moreover involvement had its greatest effect not on memory but on subjects arousal as measured by EDR Keenan MacWhinney and Mayhew 1977 conducted the first experimental study of memory for natural conversation Their study was motivated by the observation that sentences spoken in natural conversation convey two fundamentally different types of information propositional information and pragmatic information Propositional information was characterized as information about the objects and events referred to by the sentence Pragmatic information was defined as information about the context of the sentence in the social interaction including information about the speaker and his intentions beliefs and his relations with the listener Sentences that conveyed a great deal of pragmatic information






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