Adult Attachment and Preemptive Defenses: Converging Evidence on the Role of Defensive Exclusion at the Level of Encoding


concerning this article should be addressed to R. Chris Fraley, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Department of Psychology, 603 East Daniel Street, Champaign, IL 61820. E-mail:


ABSTRACT The objective of this research was to determine whether the tendency of highly avoidant adults not to recall attachment-related information is best explained through defensive strategies that operate on encoding or retrieval processes. In Study 1 participants listened to an emotionally evocative recording and were given both explicit and implicit tests of their memory for the material. Compared to less avoidant people, highly avoidant people recalled fewer details from the recording and performed worse on an implicit test of their memory for the information. In Study 2 we manipulated people's motivation to retrieve information from memory by offering participants a monetary award for recall. Highly avoidant people recalled less information than less-avoidant people despite the monetary incentive. Taken together, these results suggest that the relative inability of avoidant adults to recall attachment-related information is due to the defensive exclusion of information at the time of encoding rather than the time of retrieval.