Conversational Influence on Memory and the Construction of Collective Memories
William Hirst
New School for Social Research

People often communicate with other about the past. In some instances, one person informs others of something new to them. In other instances, the conversation concerns a past event that was experienced by all participants. This latter form of communicative remembering is perhaps unique to humans. How do conversations about a shared past reshape the memory of conversational participants? And do changes in memory increase the degree of mnemonic convergence across participants? If it does, then conversations can serve as a means of building collective memories within a community. Although there are many possible ways a conversation can reshape participant’s memory, the present talk focuses on silences that arise within the conversation. That is, conversational remembering is usually selective: some memories are retold, while others go unmentioned. The talk explores how this selective remembering can induce forgetting of the silenced material, the conditions under which such socially shared retrieval-induced forgetting might be expected to occur, and the consequences this has for the formation of collective memories.