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Memories of Yesterday's Emotions: Does the Valence of Experience Affect the Memory-Experience Gap?
Intense pain is often exaggerated in retrospective evaluations, indicating a possible divergence between experience and memory. However, little is known regarding how people retrospectively evaluate experiences with both pleasant and unpleasant aspects. The Day Reconstruction Method (DRM; Kahneman. Krueger, Schkade, Schwarz, & Stone, 2004b) provides a unique opportunity to examine memory-experience gaps in recollections of individual days, which elicit a wide gamut of emotions. We asked female participants (N = 810, Study 1, and N = 615, Study 2) to reconstruct episodes of the previous day using the DRM and demonstrated that memory and experience diverge for both pleasant and unpleasant emotions. When they rated their day overall in a retrospectively evaluative frame of mind, the participants recalled more unpleasant and pleasant emotions than they reported feeling during the individual episodes, with a larger gap for unpleasant emotions than for pleasant emotions. The findings suggest that separate processes are used for committing positive and negative events to memory and that, especially when unpleasant emotions are involved, prudence is favored over accuracy.