Trust and biased memory of transgressions in romantic relationships

Laura B. Luchies*, Caryl E. Rusbult, Paul W. Eastwick, Jennifer Wieselquist, Madoka Kumashiro, Michael K. Coolsen, Eli J. Finkel

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

27 Scopus citations

Abstract

Relative to people with low trust in their romantic partner, people with high trust tend to expect that their partner will act in accordance with their interests. Consequently, we suggest, they have the luxury of remembering the past in a way that prioritizes relationship dependence over self-protection. In particular, they tend to exhibit relationship-promoting memory biases regarding transgressions the partner had enacted in the past. In contrast, at the other end of the spectrum, people with low trust in their partner tend to be uncertain about whether their partner will act in accordance with their interests. Consequently, we suggest, they feel compelled to remember the past in a way that prioritizes self-protection over relationship dependence. In particular, they tend to exhibit self-protective memory biases regarding transgressions the partner had enacted in the past. Four longitudinal studies of participants involved in established dating relationships or fledgling romantic relationships demonstrated that the greater a person's trust in their partner, the more positively they tend to remember the number, severity, and consequentiality of their partner's past transgressions- controlling for their initial reports. Such trustinspired memory bias was partner-specific; it was more reliably evident for recall of the partner's transgressions and forgiveness than for recall of one's own transgressions and forgiveness. Furthermore, neither trust-inspired memory bias nor its partner-specific nature was attributable to potential confounds such as relationship commitment, relationship satisfaction, self-esteem, or attachment orientations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)673-694
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of personality and social psychology
Volume104
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 7 2013

Keywords

  • Close relationships
  • Dependence regulation
  • Memory bias
  • Transgressions
  • Trust

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science

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    Luchies, L. B., Rusbult, C. E., Eastwick, P. W., Wieselquist, J., Kumashiro, M., Coolsen, M. K., & Finkel, E. J. (2013). Trust and biased memory of transgressions in romantic relationships. Journal of personality and social psychology, 104(4), 673-694. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0031054