Telling Their Stories: Memory Facilitation or Interference in Stressed Young Adults
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
Elizabeth G. Donnellan
Instructor, School of Social Sciences, Communication, and Education, Saint Vincent College