Repeating bad experience makes it seem worse

February 8th, 2011 - 1:30 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Feb 8 (IANS) Bad or annoying events seem much worse if people have to go through them again. “The prospect of repeating an experience can, in fact, change how people remember it,” said study authors Jeff Galak from Carnegie Mellon University and Tom Meyvis from New York University.

In a series of eight studies exposing people to annoying noise or tedious computer tasks or asking them about menstrual pain, participants recalled these as being much more negative if they expected them to happen again soon, according to a Carnegie Mellon statement.

The lab studies exposed groups of people to five seconds of vacuum cleaner noise. Those who were told they would have to listen to more vacuum cleaner noise said it was much more irritating than people who were told the noise was over.

Subsequent studies replicated this finding using larger samples and boring, repetitive tasks — such as dragging circles from the left to the right side of a computer screen 50 times, the Journal of Experimental Psychology reports.

Again, people who were told they would have to do it again said the task was significantly more irritating, boring and annoying than people who were told they were done with it.

Also, people recalled fun activities, such as playing video games, as equally enjoyable whether they thought they would play again or not.

The authors concluded that emotions negatively shape memory’s judgment of unpleasant experiences, but positively shape the recollected quality of pleasant experiences.

-St/pg/vt

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