MEMORIES AND FORECASTS IN CLOSE RELATIONSHIPS: A CROSS-CULTURAL INVESTIGATION
Interpersonal memories and forecasts can be influenced (or shaped) by individuals’ current relationship experiences. The present research examined cultural differences in interpersonal memories and forecasts, situated in a current/recent positive or negative interpersonal context. Significant cultural differences were observed in the negative, but not positive, interpersonal context. When a current/recent negative relationship event was made salient, Euro-Canadians brought to mind more negative memories (Studies 1 to 3), and generated more negative forecasts (Study 4), about their close other than Chinese did. This was true regardless of whether the current event was a hypothetical scenario or an actual real-life situation. Furthermore, cultural differences in interpersonal memories and forecasts in the negative condition were mediated by focal thinking, which is the extent to which individuals think about and focus on their current negative interpersonal experience (Studies 3 and 4). These negative relational memories and forecasts were associated with poorer perceived relationship quality, lower willingness to help a close other, and less forgiveness. In particular, when a close other did something that was hurtful or wrong, Euro-Canadians perceived their relationship quality to be poorer than did Chinese, partly due to the negative thoughts that came to their mind. The present findings highlighted the role of focal thinking in the way people recall and forecast interpersonal events in a current negative relational context, and further demonstrated that cultural differences in the accessibility of memories and forecasts were not attributable to potential alternative explanations such as relationship-harmony maintenance or non-linear thinking styles.