Winkielman, P., & Schwarz, N. (2001). How pleasant was your childhood? Beliefs about memory shape inferences from experienced difficulty of recall. Psychological Science, 12, 176-179.
People's beliefs about how memory works can affect their inferences from experienced difficulty of recall. Participants were asked to recall either 4 childhood events (experienced as an easy task) or 12 childhood events (experienced as a difficult task). Subsequently, they were led to believe that pleasant or unpleasant periods of one’s life fade from memory. When the recall task was difficult (12 events), participants who believed that memories from unpleasant periods fade away rated their childhood as less happy than participants who believed that memories from pleasant periods fade away. The opposite pattern was observed when the recall task was easy (4 events). This interplay of recall experiences and memory beliefs suggests that the judgmental impact of subjective experiences is shaped by beliefs about their meaning. It also suggests that the recall difficulty in clinical memory may lead a person to make negative inferences about his or her childhood, provided the person shares the popular belief that memory represses negative information.