Recall bias in emotional intensity ratings: investigating person-level and event-level predictors

  • Charlotte OttensteinEmail author
  • Tanja Lischetzke
Original Paper


Individuals’ recall of past emotions is often biased. Previous studies have focused on personality dispositions as predictors of such bias, but not yet on event-level (within-person) predictors (beyond the valence of emotions). We investigated whether personally more relevant events and higher momentary clarity of the elicited emotions yield less recall bias. To indicate emotional clarity, we used a response-time-based measure. We also examined whether extraversion, neuroticism, and conscientiousness would predict between-person differences in recall bias. The results of an experience sampling study (534 events nested in 72 individuals) showed that, on average, positive emotions were retrospectively overestimated, whereas negative emotions were recalled more accurately. Multilevel models revealed that negative emotions were overestimated for events characterized by lower personal relevance and lower momentary emotional clarity. On the person level, higher conscientiousness was related to a smaller recall bias for positive and negative emotions. The findings suggest that the accuracy of retrospective judgments of emotions varies systematically both within and between persons.


Recall bias Memory-experience gap Emotional clarity Retrospective rating Assessment 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for Methodologies, Diagnostics and EvaluationUniversity of Koblenz-LandauLandauGermany

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