Shippensburg University
Psychology Department

PSI High Newsletter

Volume 23, No. 1
October 1998
What is special about memories of special days? Remembering “unforgettable” events
How does part-time work affect full-time students? Opportunities for growth exist
What contributes to feelings of closeness? It takes two to tango
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What is special about memories of special days?
Remembering “unforgettable” events

A “flashbulb” memory is said to be a memory in which significant or novel news or experience, including details associated with encountering that news or experience, is preserved like a flashbulb photograph preserving the major events and small details of a moment in time. For example, what do you remember about January 28, 1986, the day of the Challenger disaster, or what do your students recall about the first day they drove a car?

In order to investigate the issue of flashbulb memory, Shippensburg University psychology professor Dr. Judy Platania and undergraduate student Catherine Hertkorn studied memories surrounding an uneventful encounter with a friend and those surrounding the death of Princess Diana. Their findings were presented in April at the Eastern Psychological Association meeting in Boston (Where Were You on the Night of August 30th? An Assessment of Memory for Sudden, Unexpected Events).

In the middle of the 1997 fall semester, the 49 undergraduate participants in the study completed two questionnaires. One focused on an uneventful encounter with a friend the previous evening, and the other asked about learning of Princess Diana’s death. Both questionnaires requested descriptions of the following: details about the person’s recollection of the event, the time, the location, what the person was doing just prior to the event, who was with the person, the clothes the person was wearing, and first thoughts about the event. For both events the participants used a 9-point scale (0 = not at all, 9 = extremely) to answer items similar to the following.

How accurate is your memory?
How confident are you in your memory?
At the end of the semester the participants completed the questionnaires a second time.
For the first administration of the questionnaires, there were no statistically significant differences in the accuracy or confidence ratings for the two events (all averaged ratings near 8). For the second administration, self-reported accuracy and confidence ratings for August 30 remained high (7.0 and 7.2), whereas ratings decreased for the uneventful encounter with a friend (3.8 and 5.1). But analyses of the content contained in the mid-semester and end-of-the-semester descriptions indicated that less than a third of the August 30 descriptions were consistent, whereas slightly less than half of the ordinary event descriptions were in agreement.

The findings failed to support a special mechanism for “flashbulb” memories. Although perceived accuracy and confidence for such recollections were higher than for ordinary events, the consistency in what was recalled of August 30 was actually lower than the consistency in what was remembered of an uneventful encounter. Consequently, our higher confidence in the accuracy of memories for special days may have more to do with our need to recall those events than with the actual correctness of our recollections. How does part-time work affect full-time students?

How does part-time work affect full-time students?
Opportunities for growth exist

Surveys indicate that about half of 16- to 18-year-olds work regularly during the academic year, and that three-quarters of high school seniors do so. Nevertheless, other than investigating the relationship between the number of hours worked and school performance, there has not been much research on the ways that work might affect academics. In an effort to begin clarifying those relationships, Karen Markel and Michael Frone used the resources at Buffalo’s Research Institute on Addictions to conduct a study in this area (Job Characteristics, Work-School Conflict, and School Outcomes Among Adolescents: Testing a Structural Model, Journal of Applied Psychology, 1998, Vol. 83, 277-287).

Their data consisted of responses to 90 minutes worth of questionnaires administered at the end of the academic year to 319 teenagers (16 to 19 years old) who worked at least 5 hours each week and were full-time students. Two-thirds of their participants were in high school. The investigators examined the following job characteristics.

Workload: Measured by items such as “I have too much work to do” rated on a 5-point scale ranging from 1 (never) to 5 (very often)
Work hours: Participants’ self-report of the average number of hours worked per week
Job dissatisfaction: Assessed by a 6-point scale of job dissatisfaction ranging from 1 (completely satisfied) to 6 (completely dissatisfied), by a 5-point scale of dislike ranging from (“I like my job very much”) to 5 (“I don’t like my job at all”), and by scales that focused on emotions such as bothered, frustrated, unhappy, relaxed, fortunate, and pleased
The researchers evaluated work-school conflict by using a 5-point scale from 1 (never) to 5 (very often) to rate items similar to the following. Due to my job, I feel tired when I go to school The requirements of my job interfere with schoolwork Due to my job, I now spend less time on homework and studying My job takes time I’d rather use for school and schoolwork While at school, I spend lots of time thinking about my job
Markel and Frone also evaluated the following school outcomes.

School readiness was measured using a 5-point scale from 1 (never) to 5 (very often) to rate items similar to the following.


I try hard in class
I concentrate in class
In class I let my mind wander (reverse scored)
I try to do my best on all assignments
I complete homework on time
I do all schoolwork expected of me
I go to class with unfinished homework (reverse scored)
I go to class without my text or notebook (reverse scored)
I skip a day of school without a real excuse (reverse scored)
I cut some classes without missing a whole day of school (reverse scored)
I go to school late without a real excuse (reverse scored)
I leave school early without a real excuse (reverse scored)
I go to class late (reverse scored)
School performance was evaluated by a self-report measure of the student’s overall GPA for the past academic year and by 5-point scales ranging from 1 (poor) to 5 (excellent) used to rate overall performance, the amount of schoolwork completed, and the quality of schoolwork done during the past academic year.
School dissatisfaction was assessed using items phrased in similar ways to the job dissatisfaction items.

The authors found that there were statistically significant positive relationships among work-school conflict and job workload (p < .01), job hours (p < .01), and job dissatisfaction (p < .001). Other statistically significant findings included a negative relationship between work-school conflict and school readiness (p < .01), a positive relationship between school readiness and school performance (p < .001), and a negative relationship between school performance and school dissatisfaction (p < .001).

Markel and Frone concluded that action is necessary on the part of employers, schools, parents, and teenagers. The researchers support the creation of enriching jobs with flexible schedules. While working in such settings, the authors believe that adolescents should be encouraged to learn adaptive ways for managing their time and coping with adversity.

What contributes to feelings of closeness?
It takes two to tango

What sorts of perceptions are associated with feeling close to another person? That was the fundamental question recently addressed in research conducted by Jean-Philippe Laurenceau, Lisa Feldman Barrett, and Paula Pietromonaco (Intimacy as an Interpersonal Process: The Importance of Self-Disclosure, Partner Disclosure, and Perceived Partner Responsiveness in Interpersonal Exchanges, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1998, Vol. 74, 1238-1251). The subjects in the study were undergraduates, and, since Dr. Laurenceau is at Penn State, many of the participants were students living in State College.

The investigators tested a theory of intimacy proposed by Harry Reis and his colleagues. Their model suggests that feelings of intimacy result when a person discloses revealing information to another, and the responses of the listener lead the speaker to feel understood, accepted, validated, and cared for.

In order to gather empirical evidence regarding the theory, the researchers conducted two studies. Both involved participants completing ratings of interactions within one hour of their occurrence. All of the encounters that were examined involved two people and lasted at least 10 minutes. The first study looked at 1,494 interactions involving 69 participants over one week, and the second study focused on 3,955 encounters involving 89 participants over two weeks.

For the first study, the students rated their perceptions regarding self-disclosure, partner disclosure, perceived partner responsiveness, and intimacy using the following 5-point scales (1 = very little, 5 = a great deal).

Self-disclosure: amount disclosed amount of feelings expressed
Partner disclosure: amount disclosed amount of positive emotions expressed amount of negative emotions expressed
Partner responsiveness: feeling of being accepted
Intimacy: amount of intimacy (Participants were told “intimacy” meant the degree to which one felt close to a person, and that it did not necessarily mean sexual activity.
With probability values all less than .001, the results indicated that both self-disclosure and partner disclosure were positively correlated with intimacy. Since the effects of these variables continued to be quite high, even when the effects of perceived partner responsiveness were controlled, the authors concluded that the role of perceived partner responsiveness was less than they had expected. They hypothesized that the relatively small effects might have been due to the study’s narrow definition of partner responsiveness (feeling of being accepted).
In order to address this issue and to look at the possible role of factual self-disclosures, the researchers conducted the second study using the following 5-point scales.

Self-disclosure amount of emotions disclosed amount of thoughts disclosed amount of facts disclosed

Partner disclosure: amount thoughts and feelings disclosed
Partner responsiveness: feeling of being accepted feeling of being understood feeling of being cared for
Intimacy: amount of closeness (The researchers changed this definition in order to emphasize that their interest was in psychological closeness, not sexual activity.)
As in the first study, both self-disclosure and partner disclosure were positively correlated with intimacy (all probability levels were less than .001). But this time when the effects of perceived partner responsiveness on intimacy were controlled, self-disclosure and partner disclosure showed greater reductions. This finding supported the authors’ belief that the concept of partner responsiveness involves feelings of being understood and cared for, in addition to the feeling of being accepted.
On the issue of factual self-disclosure, the findings indicated no statistically significant correlations of this variable with intimacy. So it is fair to say that women interviewed by Dragnet’s Sgt. Friday probably did not feel very close to him.

The researchers believed their results strongly supported the theory that the perceived amount of disclosure (1) by one’s self and (2) by one’s partner, both predict the development of intimacy. Furthermore, the researchers found that these correlations appear to be related to feelings of being accepted, understood, and cared for by the other person.

About Psi High Newsletter

Editor: Kenneth France, Ph.D.

The Psi High Newsletter is published for teachers of high-school psychology by Shippensburg University.