Telling a story or telling it straight: the effects of entertaining versus accurate retellings on memory



People retell events for different reasons. Sometimes they try to be accurate, other times entertaining. What characterizes retellings from different perspectives? How does retelling perspective affect later recall of events? In the current research, participants retold a story either three times or not at all. By instruction, retellings were either entertaining or accurate. Compared to accurate retellings, entertaining retellings contained more affect, but fewer sensory references. On a subsequent memory test, participants who retold with an accuracy goal recalled the greatest number of story events, and their recall protocols were the most accurate and detailed, and least exaggerated. However, recognition memory did not differ across groups, suggesting that differences in retrieval structures (necessary for recall but not recognition) were key to understanding later differences in memory. Compared to telling it straight, the creative process of telling a story leads to qualitative and quantitative changes in later recall. Copyright © 2004 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.