Mnemic neglect and self-threat: Trait modifiability moderates self-protection

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Abstract

The mnemic neglect effect is the phenomenon of disproportionately poor recall for threatening (rather than non-threatening) feedback that refers to the self (rather than another person). Does trait modifiability moderate mnemic neglect? We hypothesized that mnemic neglect will be present for feedback on unmodifiable traits, but absent for feedback on modifiable traits. In the latter case, the feedback would be lower in threat potential because its consequences are fleeting and steps to prevent its reoccurrence are possible. Participants received mixed (threatening and non-threatening) feedback that referred either to the self or another person. The feedback pertained to (central and peripheral) self-conceptions that were either unmodifiable or modifiable. In support of the hypothesis, mnemic neglect emerged for feedback on unmodifiable, but not modifiable, traits. The findings illustrate the selective and strategic nature of self-protection. Copyright © 2004 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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