Telling Their Stories: Memory Facilitation or Interference in Stressed Young Adults

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The purpose of this study is to explore whether a narrative task, using storytelling, reduces or increases memory performance during free recall tasks in young adults as a function of their perceptions of stress in their daily lives. Since many studies demonstrate that overall life stressors often interfere with learning, discovering methods for reducing the impact of that interference is key to the facilitation of learning. For this reason, participants in the experimental group completed a choice of narrative tasks (oral or written recounting of a current stressor) to determine whether recall of stressful events facilitates or interferes with the learning of new information. Participants who reported the highest levels of stress on the Young Adult Family Inventory of Life Events and Changes scale (YA-FILES) scored lower on all trials of the free recall tasks than those who report lower levels of daily stress. Further, there were significant differences in performance between those who completed narrative tasks (regardless of reported stress levels) and those that did not suggesting that, at least temporarily, the process of recounting personal narratives can influence short-term recall and learning.


Keywords: Applied Learning, Stress, Cognition
Stream: Psychology, Cognitive Science and Behavioural Sciences
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.


Elizabeth G. Donnellan

Instructor, School of Social Sciences, Communication, and Education, Saint Vincent College
Latrobe, PA, USA

Ms. Donnellan earned degrees from the University of Maryland (B.S.), Rhode Island College (M.Ed), and is a doctoral candidate at the University of South Florida (PhD in education psychology/developmental psychology). She is a Visiting Instructor at Saint Vincent College (Psychology Dept.) this academic year and has accepted a tenure position beginning next year (education and psychology). Her research interests focus on the impact of non-specific, daily stressors on children's learning, children's cognition in social settings, and memory strategy development. Currently, she and her students are exploring the use of personal narrative tasks as a means to facilitate learning.

Ref: I08P0744