Date of Completion

Spring 5-9-2010

Thesis Advisor(s)

Stephanie Milan; Felicia Pratto

Honors Major



Cognitive Psychology | Psychology


The current study investigates the relationship between individual differences in attachment style and the recall of autobiographical memories. According to attachment theory, affect regulation strategies employed by individuals high in attachment anxiety and high in attachment avoidance are likely to influence how information about the past is recalled. This study examines how attachment anxiety and attachment avoidance relate to the presence of negative emotions in autobiographical memories of upsetting events with important relationship figures (i.e., mother, father, or roommate). Participants included 248 undergraduate students ranging from ages 18-22 that attend a public university in the northeast. As hypothesized, individuals with an avoidant attachment expressed less sadness in their responses to the written narrative task, especially when prompted for memories involving their primary caregiver. Contrary to the hypothesis, anxiously attached individuals did not display higher levels of worry/fear emotions in their responses to the written narrative. Attachment anxiety was related to some differences in emotional content; however, this varied by relationship partner. The results provide evidence linking attachment style to emotion selection and retrieval in autobiographical memories of ‘upsetting’ events. Implications for close relationships and therapy are discussed.