Adult attachment and the defensive regulation of attention and memory: examining the role of preemptive and postemptive defensive processes

J Pers Soc Psychol. 2000 Nov;79(5):816-26. doi: 10.1037//0022-3514.79.5.816.


Previous research has found that avoidant adults have more difficulty recalling emotional experiences than do less avoidant adults. It is unclear, however, whether such findings reflect differences in the degree to which avoidant adults (a) attend to and encode emotional information, (b) elaborate emotional information they have encoded, or (c) do both. Two studies were conducted to distinguish between the effects of these processes. Participants listened to an interview about attachment-related issues and were asked to recall details from the interview either immediately or at variable delays. An analysis of forgetting curves revealed that avoidant adults initially encoded less information about the interview than did nonavoidant adults, although avoidant and nonavoidant adults forgot the information they did encode at the same rate. The implications of these findings for current views on the nature and efficacy of defenses are discussed.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attention*
  • Defense Mechanisms*
  • Emotions*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory*
  • Models, Psychological
  • Object Attachment*
  • Personality / classification*
  • Repression, Psychology