Personality affects emotional memories

Personality can play a role in how an individual copes with their emotional memories. This is according to new research published in the American Psychological Association's journal Emotion, which also found a person's gender and the ways in which they regulate feelings can have an impact on how such recollections affect them.

It was shown that while men who are high in neuroticism often think back to more negative times than males deemed less neurotic, women of this type tend to return to these unfavourable memories on a regular basis.

This behaviour is known as rumination and Florin Dolcos, a Psychology Professor at the University of Illinois, noted the process can lead to depression.

Professor Dolcos stated: "Depressed people recollect those negative memories and as a result they feel sad ... the tendency is to have more negative memories recollected. It's a kind of a vicious circle."

The research suggested people could try to interrupt rumination by becoming more outgoing and making an effort to think differently about their memories.

Jo Maddocks, Chartered Psychologist, commented: "Personality traits may predispose us towards certain behaviours but we can still learn to change our habits.

"A person's tendency to focus on negative memories is a habit. Through practice and repetition we can learn to redirect our attention towards positive memories and create new habits.

"The more we practice recalling memories the more active and accessible they become.

"By allowing ourselves to continually be drawn back to memories with associated negative feelings we strengthen this neural network, which as with all feelings lock our attention and deepen our trance. 

"Our personality and nature may incline us to pay more attention to negative experiences, but as humans we have the capacity to redirect our attention towards positive memories and imagination that will over time become our new automatic and habitual tendency."