Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Dissertation


Moore School of Business


Business Administration

First Advisor

Priyali Rajagopal


Consumer memory is an important variable for marketers to study because it is well documented that memories influence consumer attitudes, preferences, and behavioral intentions (Chattopadhyay and Alba 1988). In my dissertation, I focus on two specific types of consumer memories that are important for consumer well-being and self-definition – memories of shared (social) experiences and memories of special experiences. In my first essay, I contend that shared experiences are remembered better than individual experiences because of their positive impact on consumer well-being, while in my second essay, I investigate the manner in which memories of special experiences, which are inherently important for self-definition and well-being, are protected from contamination.

Essay 1investigates the impact of social context on consumer memory. Specifically, I consider how shared (versus individual) experiences can lead to more accessible memories, i.e. I document a social bias in consumer memory. I suggest that shared memories are more accessible than memories of individual experiences because they fulfill belongingness needs, build self-esteem, and contribute to a positive selfdefinition to a greater extent than memories of individual experiences. I also provide evidence that the social bias is more pronounced for memories of positive, rather than negative, experiences such that consumers remember shared/positive memories better

than individual positive. Interestingly, I find the opposite pattern of results for memories of negative experience such that individual/negative memories are remembered better that shared/negative. I suggest that a correlation between shared experience and wellbeing exists such that social context amplifies both the benefits of a positive memory, but also the threat posed by a negative memory, to wellbeing, thereby motivating enhanced recall of shared positive but not shared negative experiences.

In Essay 2, I turn my focus to another aspect of consumer memory - strategic memory protection. Past research has found that memories of special experiences can be viewed as assets because of the utility that recollection provides and because of their importance for self-definition (Elster and Loewenstein 1992). Further, it has been shown that consumers will strategically protect memories that they view in this manner from contamination (Zauberman, Ratner, and Kim 2009). In my research, I examine memory protection more closely by documenting the type of contamination that special memories are protected from, the process underlying memory protection, and the implications that memory protection strategies have for marketers. I find that memories of special experiences are protected only from contamination by non-special, but not additional special, cues and propose that this type of protection occurs as a means of protecting their sense of self, since memories of special experiences are used for self-definition.