Role of Social Interaction in Collective Memory from the Perspective of Cognitive Psychology

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Collective memory has been studied extensively in various disciplines of the social sciences, such as sociology, history, anthropology, and political science, resulting in various definitions for the term. Although there is not a well-accepted conceptualization for collective memory across disciplines, the common ground that binds all uses of the term is that collective memory is a form of memory shared by a group, reshaped by social artifacts, and that has an important role in the social identity of the group's members. Memory processes have been of central interest to psychologists. However, systematic investigation of the issues in collective memory from a psychological perspective has just begun. The review aims to apply the findings obtained from experimental studies in cognitive psychology to the issues in collective memory. This review focuses on the experimental studies on the role of social interaction in the reconstruction of memories and convergence among individuals on a shared representation of the past. The studies in experimental settings have generated simplified simulations of real life and suggest that social contagion of memory, collaborative recall, selective retrieval, and retrieval-induced forgetting in social contexts may represent cognitive mechanisms underlying the formation and retrieval of collective memories. After exploring these studies, the review focuses on the parallels between the experimental and exploratory studies on collective memory. Finally, the conclusion proposes that studies in the lab setting can contribute to understanding cognitive mechanisms underlying collective memories in real life, providing general principles to predict collective memories' formation and maintenance. Although this review adopts a cognitive psychological perspective, it attempts to blend insights from various approaches, to encourage an interdisciplinary approach to studying collective memory and devise new research questions to improve the understanding of collective memory.