Three high-power studies (N = 3,000 total) demonstrated that asking participants to recall an experience as a manipulation can have unintended consequences. Participants who recalled preoccupying secrets made more extreme judgments of an external environment, supporting the notion that secrecy is burdensome. This influence was found, however, only among a subset of participants (i.e., participants who successfully recalled secrets that corresponded to their condition). We introduce the concept of manipulation correspondence to understand these patterns of results. Without taking into account whether participants' recalled secrets corresponded to their manipulation, there was no main effect of the recall manipulation on hill slant judgments. Among participants whose secrets did not correspond with the manipulation, a contrast effect emerged (i.e., influences on perceptual judgments opposite to the intention of the recall prompts). Moreover, the very process of recalling a secret in response to a prompt can lead to contrast from that prompt. Exposing participants to extreme exemplar secrets can experimentally produce, or counteract, this contrast effect. Preoccupying secrets are burdensome but tests of this phenomenon must take into account whether participants are actually preoccupied with their secrets (i.e., whether their recalled secrets correspond with the experimental manipulation), or experimentally ensure that participants judge their secrets as in line with the manipulation. More broadly, the current research speaks to a fundamental principle of recall manipulations; when recalling a particular experience, correspondence with the manipulation will determine its effects, and the process of recalling an experience (and comparing it to a prompt) might change how one perceives that experience.

Michael Slepian, E.J. Masicampo, and Adam Galinsky
Journal Article
Publication Date
Journal of Experimental Psychology: General

Full Citation

Slepian, Michael, E.J. Masicampo, and Adam Galinsky
. “The hidden effects of recalling secrets: Assimilation, contrast, and the burdens of secrecy.”
Journal of Experimental Psychology: General
, (January 01, 2016):