Positive Open Memories Correlate with Gratitude and Emotional Intensity

Cody Jensen, Abagail Fister, Natacha Hall, Andrew Pereira, Stan Pichinevskiy


The purpose of this study was to look at the subjective qualities of a positive open memory. An open memory is one where participants view their recalled event as an “open book” that is not yet behind the participant, and still have some “unfinished business” associated with the memory. Although psychologists typically think that bringing closure to an unpleasant event promotes emotional well-being, this may not be true with positive memories. Rather than bringing closure to these events, it may be beneficial to leave positive memories open. The prediction was that open memories would be more emotionally intense at initial recollection, the intensity would fade over time, and the openness of the memory would be positively correlated with grateful emotion. One hundred and nine college students were asked to recall a positive event that took place within the past three months, and were then instructed to write about the positive event for five minutes. Participants were asked to write about their memory in one of three conditions: closed condition, open condition, or memory control (“write about your daily routine”). Participants then answered a series of questions about the subjective qualities of their memory including positive emotional impact, perspective, and the impact the memory had on them while taking place and at the present moment. Participants were asked to recall the same memory and answer the same set of questions about their memory one week and four weeks after the initial test. The findings were that viewing the memory as “behind me” correlated negatively with gratitude (r=-.350, p< .001) and emotional intensity when recalling the memory (r=-.405, p< 001). Other relationships between open and closed memories and the subjective qualities of those memories will also be discussed. Interestingly, the lack of understanding the event did not seem to be an important aspect of the openness of pleasant memories. This appears to be in direct contrast with unpleasant open memories, and may represent an important contrast between positive and negative open memories. In conclusion, open pleasant memories are more pleasant, induce more gratitude, and are more emotionally intense than closed pleasant recollections. Thus, bringing closure to pleasant open memories may actually decrease a person’s pleasant emotions associated with the memory. This suggests that psychological processes that create less closure and more openness in positive memories may be important to well-being, and future research that investigates these processes would be valuable.


Memories; Gratitud; Emotional Intensity

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