Reliving emotional personal memories: Affective biases linked to personality and sex-related differences

Ekaterina Denkova, Florin Dolcos, Sanda Dolcos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Although available evidence suggests that the emotional valence and recollective properties of autobiographical memories (AMs) may be influenced by personality-and sex-related differences, overall these relationships remain poorly understood. The present study investigated these issues by comparing the effect of general personality traits (extraversion and neuroticism) and specific traits linked to emotion regulation (ER) strategies (reappraisal and suppression) on the retrieval of emotional AMs and on the associated postretrieval emotional states, in men and women. First, extraversion predicted recollection of positive AMs in both men and women, whereas neuroticism predicted the proportion of negative AMs in men and the frequency of rehearsing negative AMs in women. Second, reappraisal predicted positive AMs in men, and suppression predicted negative AMs in women. Third, while reliving of positive memories had an overall indirect effect on postretrieval positive mood through extraversion, reliving of negative AMs had a direct effect on postretrieval negative mood, which was linked to inefficient engagement of suppression in women. Our findings suggest that personality traits associated with positive affect predict recollection of positive AMs and maintenance of a positive mood, whereas personality traits associated with negative affect, along with differential engagement of habitual ER strategies in men and women, predict sex-related differences in the recollection and experiencing of negative AMs. These findings provide insight into the factors that influence affective biases in reliving AMs, and into their possible link to sex-related differences in the susceptibility to affective disorders.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)515-528
Number of pages14
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2012


  • Affective state
  • Emotion control
  • Individual variations
  • Mood and anxiety disorders
  • personal memories

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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