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Poster D60

Do impressions of characters and their actions influence memory of a narrative?

Poster Session D - Monday, April 15, 2024, 8:00 – 10:00 am EDT, Sheraton Hall ABC

Savannah Born1 (, Zachariah Reagh1; 1Washington University in St. Louis

Our memories are not exact representations of what we experienced. Rather, they are influenced by factors such as context, emotion, and expectations. One such factor that is crucial to the way we represent everyday events is our impressions of the people around us. However, the way attitudes about people influence memory for events is not well understood. We hypothesized that the extent to which a character is liked, how moral they are perceived to be, and how well their actions align with expectations will influence how that character is remembered. In the present study, participants watched a short film broken into 10 clips where two main characters made morally gray choices. Following each clip, participants answered multiple choice and free response questions designed to measure how much they liked the character, how moral they believed the character was, and what subsequent course(s) of action the character should and would take in the next clip. After watching all of the clips, participants were asked to describe everything they remembered from the movie in detail, and provide final descriptions of the main characters. Our preliminary results show considerable individual variability across character impressions and recall performance, which we will leverage to correlate with impressions and expectations. Ongoing analyses use clip number as a proxy of the narrative unfolding to measure how opinions about the characters changed over time. Other analyses will use natural language processing models to determine whether participants who rate the characters similarly use similar language to describe the characters.

Topic Area: LONG-TERM MEMORY: Episodic


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April 13–16  |  2024