The Effects of Recall Mode and Memory Expectancies on Remembrances of Natural Conversations


  • The authors would like to acknowledge the assistance of Piper Rountree, Sam Young, Fredric Jablin, James Honeycutt, and Diane Schallert. Requests for reprints should be addressed to John A. Daly at the Department of Speech Communication, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX, 78712. Versions of this article have been presented at the American Educational Research Association conference in Montreal (April, 1983) and the International Communication Association conference in Dallas (May, 1983).


While there has recently been a notable increase in attempts by memory researchers to focus on more naturalistic stimuli little attention has been paid to conversations. Conversations represent stimuli that are distinctly different in a number of ways from most other stimuli that people are required to remember. Conversations are jointly created, constantly updated, and necessarily are readily accessible by participants. The present study, exploring people's memory for natural conversations in which they participate, finds that even after only five minutes people are able to recollect only about 10% of what was said in a social exchange. Further, the mode of recall (written versus oral) and the presence and type of memory goals affected what and how much of the interaction was recalled. Subjects also remembered more of their partner's comments in the interaction than their own. Finally, oral communication anxiety affected both the production of discourse in the conversations and recall of the interactions, while writing apprehension impacted subjects' written recalls of their conversations.