Collective Memory of Political Events: Social Psychological Perspectives

By James W. Pennebaker; Dario Paez et al. | Go to book overview

Rumination is not related to a negative perception of the emotional climate. These results disconfirm the importance of involuntary reminiscences of past traumatic events on having a negative view of present-day society. Inhibition, avoidance, or voluntarily forgetting past traumatic events does not provoke rumination or a negative view of society in the short term, and in Chile and the other Latin American samples inhibition was related to a positive image of one's society.

In Spain, social sharing was related to more knowledge about the Spanish Civil War. More memories of negative past events were related to a negative evaluation of this historical event. This means that social sharing is specifically associated with a more complex and developed knowledge about the traumatic historical event, but it is not related to its affective evaluation. That is, it was remembering past negative events that showed a relation with a negative attitude toward the Spanish Civil War.

More relevant to the collective memory topic is that results of the group analysis (using family means as an index of collective processes) demonstrated that the participants' responses within families were intercorrelated and supported the influence of the collective processes of memory. Collectively, a negative attitude or social norm toward the historical event is related to high levels of social processing of the past (social sharing) and to a more developed collective memory (family mean knowledge about the Spanish Civil War). Reappraisal was related to more general knowledge about the Civil War. This implies that a social climate in which people socialize about a past traumatic event is related to a more emotional and polarized norm about this collective trauma and provokes a stronger reevaluation or voluntary thinking about the event.

Even if the data is limited (because of the use of an introspective questionnaire or purposive samples), the results suggest that groups sharing their past collective traumas have a more emotional and complex memory about these events. We posit that the social function of sharing past traumatic events is to learn and have a clear image about the collective events ("those who do not remember their past are forced to repeat it"). Finally, results based on group means confirm the existence and interrelation of collective processes of memory. Although these are correlational data and it is quite difficult to distinguish cause from effect, they are an example of the social processes of memory or an interpersonal sharing of the past, and group knowledge does have an influence on the level of reflection.


ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

The writing of this chapter and some of the research reported herein was partially supported by grant PB 94-0475-CO2 from the Ministry of Education and Science, Spain.

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